SOUTHERN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION SOUTH - Matchday#16
Saturday 02 December 2023 | Snows Stadium, Totton | Att: 1,196
TOTTON STRIKE BACK TO RESTRAIN THE GENERALS IN FOGGY STALEMATE
AFC TOTTON 2
Scott Rendell 51mins (pen);
Leon Maloney 81mins
CHESHAM UNITED 2
Ricardo German 28mins;
Zak Joseph 33mins
IN A CLASSIC GAME OF TWO HALVES, AFC Totton bounced back from a disappointing opening 45 minutes to level the scores with high-flying Chesham United in the Southern League Premier Division South at the Snows Stadium on Saturday (02 December 2023), finishing the game the stronger of the two sides and the more likely to steal a late winner.
Sam Magri came back into the team after being rested for the midweek Southampton Senior Cup victory over Downton. Charlie Kennedy moved back into the midfield alongside the returning duo of Joe Oastler and Alfie Egan. Leon Maloney, captain Scott Rendell and Joe Turner also returned to the starting line-up with Luke Bennett, Jordan Chiedozie and Alfie Stanley all dropping to the bench.
1. Lewis NOICE
2. Benny READ
6. Luke HALLETT
15. Sam MAGRI
3. Jordan RAGGUETTE
7. Joseph OASTLER
5. Charlie KENNEDY
14. Alfie EGAN
17. Leon MALONEY
9. Scott RENDELL (Capt.)
18. Joseph TURNER
8. Adam TOMASSO
10. Ethan TAYLOR
12. Jordan CHIEDOZIE
16. Alfie STANLEY
19. Luke BENNETT
With Bashley’s Southern League Division One South fixture at Cribbs FC in South Gloucestershire postponed due to a frozen pitch, former Stags fan favourites Brett Williams and Ben Jefford were both in attendance as Chesham United got the match underway. The Generals were dressed in all-yellow with black pinstripes and trim, and they were attacking towards the end of the ground that currently backs on to the Aldi supermarket construction site. There was a thick layer of fog hanging over the Snows Stadium pitch, but with the floodlights switched on from the start, visibility was good enough.
The visitors started confidently. Jordan Ragguette had to stab away an early cross from their left wing, enabling Joe Turner to pick up the loose ball in midfield and find Leon Maloney; he spread the play out to the right-hand side for Benny Read, pushing up from right-back, and went for the return pass, ghosting in behind the defender to line-up an angled shot that goalkeeper Zaki Oualah did well to tip wide for a corner. Maloney’s low delivery from the left-wing corner quadrant was turned away at the near post.
Chesham United striker Ricardo German, who came into the match as the Southern League Premier Division South’s leading goalscorer with 18 league goals to his name, including five in his last three games, combined with former Lincoln City League Two title-winner Bruno Carvalho Andrade to mount an attack down the right flank, but an over-hit return pass by German let Totton off the hook, before a period of hot potato football during which neither side was able to keep possession long enough to construct any kind of meaningful attacking moves.
AFC Totton left-back Jordan Ragguette.
Andrade tried to tip-toe his way through the Totton defence, until Read intervened by knocking the ball into touch. The throw-in made its way to the near post where German was tightly-marked and found his shot blocked. The ball rebounded out to the left wing and was crossed in at pace, but it was a fraction too high for anyone in yellow to make a solid contact.
Totton were struggling to get out of their own half during the early stages, although Chesham lacked the poise and control in the final third to exploit their territorial advantage. The visiting bench were incensed when the Referee’s Assistant on their side of the pitch brought the Referee’s attention to a foul on Ragguette right in front of them. Ragguette passed short to Maloney on the left, whose square pass picked out Turner in the middle. He moved possession further right to Read who tried to cross, but the ball rebounded off a defender and against Read to go out for a goal-kick.
Sam Magri and Charlie Kennedy were both called upon to make important defensive headers for the home side, as Chesham pushed forward in numbers. Then, an awkward bounce from German’s knock-on from within the centre-circle was all that prevented Ogochukwu Obi from sprinting clear down the middle of the pitch on 13 minutes, Read snuffing out the threat with a firm back-pass to Lewis Noice.
German used his considerable strength to hold the ball up on the corner of the Totton penalty area, after receiving possession from a right-wing throw-in. Full-back Lewis Rolfe got to the byline to receive the lay-off and cross into the danger zone, where Magri was well-placed to head clear. Then, a long kick from Noice was knocked on by Scott Rendell to play Turner in at the left-wing byline at the other end of the pitch. Turner chipped towards the far top corner but his effort was a fraction too high and landed on top of the net.
Magri and Luke Hallett had to double-up to stop Andrade and Rolfe making progress down the Chesham right wing. Then, Turner and Read played a neat one-two to put Turner through on goal, but the offside flag confirmed that Turner had moved a smidgen too soon.
Zak Joseph, wearing the No.7 shirt for The Generals, was left complaining to the Referee about what he thought was some rough treatment at the hands of Hallett, who had tracked his run down the side of the penalty area from the Chesham left before dispossessing him and winning a goal-kick.
Rendell controlled another long kick from Noice and passed to Maloney, who was brought down close to the right-wing corner flag. Maloney took the free-kick and crossed into the box, but Eoin Casey met the ball with a firm defensive header. Totton regained possession in midfield but Chesham defended well to remove any immediate danger.
Magri made an important interception in the middle of his own half, with yellow shirts pouring forward on the counter-attack. A strong defensive header by Hallett hung the ball over Ragguette, close to the halfway line, who was clobbered from behind by Rolfe.
Hallett played a long cross-field ball towards Totton’s left flank, where Rendell appeared to be caught in the face by Rolfe’s flailing arm. Ragguette played on, curling in a cross that was diverted behind for a corner. As Maloney sent the ball over, Magri spread his arms wide in an appeal to the Referee about being held by his marker. The Referee waved play on and Chesham broke away on the counter. Turner slid in but could only knock the ball behind his own defence. Ragguette chased back but when he saw Noice rushing out from his box to deal with it, he stood down. Noice hesitated for a moment and that was all Ricardo GERMAN needed to dart between them and knock the ball a couple of yards further to the right to give himself a wider angle from which to finish with a shot firm enough to evade Benny Read as he tried to block on the line.
There was controversy just two minutes later when AFC Totton thought they should have had a penalty. Maloney latched on to a high, looping ball at inside-right and clipped it over Oualah before the goalkeeper collided directly into him. The Totton players, fans and management were incensed when the Referee pointed to the corner flag rather than the penalty spot. Chesham defended that corner but another from the left flank a few minutes later presented The Stags with a golden opportunity to equalise. Maloney played it short to Alfie Egan and, from the return pass, lifted the ball to the edge of the six-yard box where Luke Hallett leapt high and headed down to force Oualah into a smart reaction save. As the ball bounced up, Hallett tried to stab it over the line as he descended back to terra firma, but could only steer it wide of the left-hand post.
And the home side were left to rue missed chances when Chesham extended their lead just a minute later. Andrade received the ball on the right-wing touchline and found German in the middle, about 25 yards with his back to goal. Despite being marked, he managed to turn the ball forward to slip Joseph into the right corner of the area. Noice came out to narrow the angle but Zak JOSEPH got to the ball first and poked his shot beyond the ‘keeper and into the net just behind the far post.
Totton tried to up their game, with Turner and Maloney exchanging passes to win a corner on the right. Maloney crossed towards the far post, where Magri appeared to be pulled to the ground by Rolfe. Again, the home side were left appealing for a decision that never came as the Referee denied The Stags a second potential penalty.
Alert defending by Jordan Ragguette at the left corner of the penalty area prevented German getting in on goal. Then, Totton mounted an attack through the fog on their right flank. Read crossed low into the box where Turner took it under control. He was tightly marked so rolled the ball back to the edge of the area where Egan took aim but ballooned his shot over the bar.
Joe Oastler left his mark on Zak Joseph with a strong challenge in front of the AFC Totton dugout, which the Referee deemed fair despite allowing the physio on to provide first aid to the Chesham United goalscorer before play resumed with a Totton throw.
Turner tried to bustle his way through the Chesham defensive ranks, showing neat skills and plenty of persistence, but there were too many yellow shirts to wade past. Then, a typically strong sliding tackle from Oastler got Benny Read out of jail as Andrade looked to exploit an under-hit back-pass. When Totton tried to counter, T’Sharne Gallimore made a brave challenge on Turner in the centre-circle, winning his team a free-kick in the process as well as several fist bumps from his teammates.
Read played Maloney to the right-wing corner flag but his cross was too high. Then, Rolfe climbed above Rendell to head away another attempted cross-field pass from Hallett. German briefly looked to be in again, but Noice beat him to the ball at the edge of the penalty area. When The Stags got forward again, Egan’s high cross from deep on the right was well-taken by Oualah, before the half-time whistle sounded. There was then a short exchange of handbags between a few opposing players as they made their way to the tunnel for their half-time oranges, but the Referee kept his yellow and red cards firmly in his pockets.
AFC TOTTON 0
CHESHAM UNITED 2
The Stags got the match back underway but it was Chesham who had the first sight of goal in the second half, when Joseph lined-up a shot from just outside the box only to be denied by Benny Read placing his heel in the way to block. Read then got forward to swap passes with Maloney, putting himself in a crossing position from the right flank, but his centre was too high for Egan arriving into the box at inside-left. Kennedy and Turner kept the ball alive but when Turner tried to set Ragguette up to cross from the left-wing touchline, his pass was too hard and ran out of play.
Strong midfield play from Kennedy forced the ball out to Read, in space again on the right. The full-back fizzed in a low cross that Oualah claimed at his near post.
Chesham briefly threatened in the 51st minute when German was able to hold the ball up and tried to play another short, penetrating pass into the box but Noice was on it in a flash, sliding out to grab the ball before leaping to his feet and smashing the ball downfield. A high bounce almost had Rendell in behind the Chesham defence, but as they knocked the ball away, it was steered forward again by Rendell to put Maloney goal-side of his marker. The slightest of touches was enough to send Maloney crashing to the ground and the Referee - perhaps conscious that he missed at least one substantially more convincing penalty claim in the first half - this time had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Scott RENDELL finished confidently, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way to halve the deficit.
With The Stags back within one goal of their opponents, the temperature of the game was immediately raised. Oastler, ever keen to get stuck in, made two well-executed tackles in quick succession to assert his midfield dominance. Maloney brought the loose ball under control and advanced with Turner in support and Read racing forward along the touchline. Maloney used Read as a decoy and curled a cross into the box, which was headed away by the retreating Chesham defence.
Oastler made an important tackle just outside the Totton area but then gifted the ball back to Chesham with an ill-considered attempted back-heel, which Noice was fortunately alert to and grabbed the ball up as soon as it was sent back into his box.
Totton were showing signs of getting their passing game going in earnest. Ragguette, Maloney and Read moved the ball from left to right in the space of a few passes. Maloney overlapped Read and sent the ball into the box. It was knocked out as far as Kennedy, who side-stepped his opponent on the edge of the D and stuck a right-footed effort that Oualah parried at his bottom-right corner; the offside flag went up as a blue shirt descended upon the rebound.
The Stags had the bit between their teeth, with The Generals falling back in retreat. A foul on Oastler in front of the AFC Totton dugout gave Maloney the chance to deliver the ball into the Chesham box. It bounced on its way to Hallett on the far side, who headed wide of the far post. A quickly-taken goal-kick required Ragguette to react quickly to prevent a counter-attack. Then, Read used his shoulder to good effect to dispossess Joseph, after being wrong-footed by a pass out of defence.
On the hour mark, Jimmy Ball withdrew Charlie Kennedy and Alfie Egan, sending on Adam Tomasso and Jordan Chiedozie. Obi turned sharply to get behind the Totton defence and put himself within shooting range but, with Magri closing in, he rushed his shot and dragged it wide to the left. That was Obi’s final contribution to proceedings, as he was immediately replaced by central defender and club captain Steve Brown, with the Chesham management duo of James Duncan and Michael Murray looking to protect their team’s slender lead.
Totton probed from the left and the right, often moving the ball cross-field via two or three passes. With about 20 minutes to go, Ragguette charged forward to force a corner on the left. Maloney’s cross to the far post found Magri but his marker did superbly to get to the ball first and hoist it over the bar for another corner on the opposite flank. This time, Maloney’s delivery had Hallett coming in at pace but the visitors managed to clear.
Chesham won a free-kick midway inside the Totton half. Harry Rush floated the ball into the Totton box, and a yellow-clad figure materialised from the fog to apply the finishing touch into the left side of the goal. But Chesham’s celebrations were immediately quashed by an offside flag on the far touchline.
Turner, Tomasso and Read built the play down the right-hand side for Totton. Read had advanced to the byline but he then rolled the ball back for Tomasso to bend in a low cross that was repelled to the edge of the area. Joe Oastler stepped forward and let fly with a thunderbolt that soared narrowly wide of the top-right corner, to a loud chorus of “Ooohhh!!” from the home crowd.
Goalscorer Leon Maloney.
With Chesham’s lead hanging by the thinnest of threads, The Stags came forward again. Turner tried to play Tomasso in with a blind pass that was intercepted and cleared. Ragguette brought the ball forward, driving infield from the left, before feeding Maloney. He laid it back to Rendell, whose clip into the box found Chiedozie on the right. With the shooting angle in front of him quite tight, Chiedozie chipped the ball to the far post where Leon MALONEY used his right instep to steer the ball back across Oualah and into the far corner to level the scores with nine minutes left on the clock.
Chesham attacked from the restart and won a corner when Tomasso charged down a left-wing cross. From the set-piece, The Generals headed over at the near post.
Rendell flicked on a long-kick from Noice to put Turner in at the right-wing byline, but his cross was turned away. Turner was then substituted, with Alfie Stanley coming on in search of a winning goal. Chesham were forced back into their own defensive third, but fine composure on the ball from Brown removed the danger when Stanley tried to flick Maloney through on goal in the middle. Then, Kieran Murphy reacted quickly to prevent another through-ball penetrating the visitors’ defensive line.
Ragguette attacked down the left and crossed low. The ball was turned away and Stanley tried to feed Ragguette again, but the pass was too hard. As Chesham went forward, German went down under Tomasso’s challenge in a central area within shooting distance of the Totton goal. German picked himself up to take the free-kick, but his curling effort barely troubled Noice, who made a comfortable catch.
The board went up to indicate there would be a minimum of seven minutes of stoppage time, which was greeted by the Totton fans with renewed cheers of encouragement for The Stags to go on and take all three points. Read swept forward down the right flank and shifted the ball infield to Rendell in the D. He played it square to Maloney, who was running towards inside-left, but he stumbled on the ball as he tried to go past the defender and Oualah was able to scoop it up.
Three minutes into stoppage time, Oastler made a strong defensive header from the centre-circle to send the ball back to Maloney, who turned to run at the Chesham defence before he was bundled over from behind for a free-kick, 30 yards out in a central position. The Referee, who had not booked anyone throughout the game, still kept his cards in his pocket. Maloney went for goal with a low shot that bent around the wall to the right and bounced narrowly past the post, with Oualah at full-stretch.
Oualah had to be alert again to kick clear as the fresh-legged Stanley came rushing at him in the Chesham area. Then, Oastler found Ragguette on the left, whose cross to the far side enabled Chiedozie to chest the ball down and shoot. His effort was blocked on the line by Oualah with his feet, and Benny Read’s follow-up was charged down by a defender.
Totton won a corner on the left. Maloney’s cross was deflected upward on its way across the Chesham box. Chiedozie got it down at the right-wing byline and rolled it back to Read, whose cross found the head of Rendell but he couldn’t control his header and the ball flew wide.
Chesham hung on for dear life as Totton peppered their box with crosses. When they did manage to get forward, German folded Hallett and Lewis Noice launched the ball high into the freezing fog; the Referee called time on an entertaining two-all draw before it came back down to earth.
After the match, AFC Totton Manager Jimmy Ball (pictured) said:
“It was always going to be a tough game against a top side. Even so, I was disappointed with our first-half performance; I thought we were miles off our levels but credit to Chesham for their part in making that the case. The second half was much more like us; we were on the front foot and a lot more aggressive, and we deserved to share the spoils in the end.
“The officials have a difficult job, I’m always conscious of that, but I cannot understand why the Referee didn’t give a penalty for a clear foul on Leon Maloney straight after their goal. I have no answer to that; it was as clear a penalty shout as I have ever seen. Anywhere else on the pitch, it would have been a free-kick. Then, Luke Hallett misses one from a yard away. But, you can’t moan and feel sorry for yourself - you just have to get on with it. And on balance, if we had got that penalty and Hallett’s goal and gone in 2-2 at half-time, it would have been far more than we actually deserved for the general quality of our play in the first half, which was as poor as we’ve been all season. Second half we got about them a lot more, disrupted their rhythm and gradually began to show our quality on the ball. There was only going to be one winner in the end. But, they won the first half and we won the second; maybe a draw was the right result.
“We know that Plymouth on Tuesday is going to be another tough one for us. It’s a long way to go, especially for a midweek game, but we will go well-prepared to take on a side we have beaten once already this season in the FA Trophy. Hopefully, we can get a good result and keep our positive recent form going before we switch attentions back to the Trophy with the Horsham match at the weekend.”
Next Up: PLYMOUTH PARKWAY vs AFC TOTTON
Southern League Premier Division South | Matchday#17 | Bolitho Park, Plymouth PL5 3JH | Tuesday 05 December 2023 | Kick-Off at 7:45pm | Book your coach ticket today
By Ben Rochey-Adams
Images courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography