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Matchday #16

AFC TOTTON                                      2
Hisham Kasimu 10mins (pen); Callum Baughan 57mins

PAULTON ROVERS                        4
Jack Ball 9mins; Harry Medway o.g. 39mins; Will Harvey 76mins; Nathan Brown 88mins

AFC Totton slumped to their third league defeat of the season against an energetic Paulton Rovers side at the Snows Stadium yesterday (Saturday), despite twice levelling the scores in front of a bumper home crowd of 481.

After a month on the road, which has included a couple of successful cup ties, Dan Sackman’s team finally returned to their home pitch to take on promotion play-off chasing Paulton, just three days before they will also host league leaders Frome Town. This was a duel between the two highest goalscoring teams in the Southern League Div.1 South, the Stags leading the way coming into the match by the odd goal in 77, while the Rovers attack was led by the division’s current 19-goal top scorer, Leighton Thomas.

A much-changed side was fielded against Gosport Borough in the Hampshire Senior Cup during the week, so a refreshed Callum Baughan and Ben Jefford were reinstated into the full-back slots, while Hisham Kasimu and Sam Griffin came back into the starting front line, with Brett Williams dropping to the bench and Shaquille Gwengwe, who came off injured after just 10 minutes at Privett Park on Wednesday night, missing out altogether.

Starting XI vs Paulton Rovers.jpg

The match began amid cold, damp conditions and it was Paulton, in maroon shirts and shorts with white socks, who threatened first with a firm header from a right-wing corner that flew wide of Amadeusz Skrzyniarz’s left-hand post. Unfortunately, Totton failed to heed the warning and found themselves behind after just 9 minutes to another corner from the same side, Jack BALL finding himself free to thump his header past the Stags’ keeper from about 4 yards out.

Totton bounced straight back. Griffin played Kasimu down the left flank and he got to the byline and centred the ball. Taylor tried to drive in a shot but the ball bounced up and struck the Paulton captain and left-back Nuno Felix on the arm. The referee gave a penalty and showed Felix the yellow card. Hisham KASIMU swept the ball home from the spot with his left foot, sending the goalkeeper Aaron Sainsbury the wrong way as the ball nestled into the bottom-right corner.

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HISH ON THE SPOT: Kasimu prepares to take the penalty that levelled the scores at 1-1 in the 10th minute vs Paulton Rovers.

The home side were guilty of some sloppy play in midfield on several occasions during the early exchanges, but when Freddie Read missed his kick and seemingly put his defence under pressure, a single boot upfield by Harry Medway suddenly had Kasimu tying two defenders in knots on the edge of their own penalty area before he shot for the bottom-left corner, the ball bobbling to where Sainsbury could swat it away for a corner.

The Stags probed Paulton’s defence in the inside-left channel, Griffin finding space a couple of times. Then, Griffin opted for a crossfield pass to Ethan Taylor, who brought the ball down on the right side of the penalty area and crossed for Kasimu. He stretched to head at goal but could only get a faint touch.

Taylor was involved again, shortly after, as Callum Baughan surged forward down the right flank via a one-two with the winger, before crossing to the far post where Griffin headed back across goal and Kasimu’s close-range prod was diverted up into the underside of the crossbar by a defender’s outstretched leg. The ball was scrambled away, intercepted and fired back at goal by Read but it flew narrowly wide.

Harry Medway was lucky to get away with a body check on Jack Ball as the two of them chased a Paulton through-ball into Totton’s inside-right area. Then, at the other end, Taylor took on two defenders on the right-hand side of the penalty area, tormenting them with stepovers before pulling the ball back along the deck but it went between Kasimu and Ngalo, and in a moment of hesitation from both players, the chance was lost.

Totton appeared to have settled from their uncomfortable start to the match and, around the mid-point of the first half, they were playing the better football. Griffin and Kasimu were getting some joy doubling up down the left wing, and when Taylor hit a crossfield ball out to Griffin on that flank, the left winger demonstrated neat ball-juggling skills with his head to get away from right-back James Byrne and fire the ball across for Kasimu, but it was blocked. Then, Taylor set up Freddie Read for a long shot, but that too was charged down by a Paulton defender.

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READY, FREDDIE, GO: Freddie Read lines up a shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Around the 30-minute mark, Adam Tomasso played a low, direct pass down the centre to Ethan Taylor on the edge of the penalty area, to the right of the D. He turned infield, away from a defender, and shot left-footed but Sainsbury was able to smother the ball inside his 6-yard box.

Paulton went forward and worked the ball out to their left wing, from where Ed Butcher flashed a low ball across a busy Totton penalty area, Skrzyniarz relieved to see it go wide. But the visitors re-took the lead shortly after from a similar position when striker Lee Ibrahim wound his way through Baughan and Olumuyiwa to play the ball across. Harry Medway and Skrzyniarz both went for the ball, the Stags skipper inadvertently prodding the ball beyond the reach of his goalkeeper and into the bottom-left corner for an OWN GOAL.

Ibrahim tried to press home Paulton’s advantage almost immediately but found himself on the wrong end of a strong challenge by Ade Olumuyiwa, who then brought the ball out of defence unopposed. Before the break, there was a yellow card for the Rovers goalscorer Jack Ball for a late foul on Olumuyiwa close to Totton’s right-wing touchline.

AFC TOTTON                                    1
PAULTON ROVERS                       2

Jordan Ngalo had struggled to assert his powerful running game in the first half, perhaps a little tired after starting all of AFC Totton’s seven matches since missing the 13 November visit of Frome Town. He was replaced by Jack Hoey, who was looking for his first goal since that FA Trophy 1st Round proper tie.

Sainsbury reacted quickly to come off his line and clear Griffin’s headed flick-on before Kasimu could latch onto it. Then, Hoey made his presence felt by drawing a foul inside the D from centre-back Dan Dempsey, who hurt himself in the effort. As Hoey lined up the free-kick, Sainsbury was standing close to his own right-hand post, leaving the other side of the goal virtually unguarded though blocked by his defensive wall. Hoey called his bluff by shooting low to the side that Sainsbury was standing, but the ball skidded wide of the post and hit the advertising hoarding behind the goal.

Paulton soon had a free-kick of their own, when Butcher turned cleverly and darted between two Totton players, tripping over Hoey’s leg in the process. A right-footed curler from Dave O’Hare required immense concentration from Skrzyniarz to save at his own feet in the centre of the goal.

In the 57th minute, Stags right-back Callum Baughan linked up with Kasimu and Taylor to work his way to the edge of the Paulton penalty area via a couple of one-twos. As he drifted along the face of the Paulton defence towards the middle, Baughan attempted a left-foot shot that hit a nearby opponent and bounced back to him. He was able to take another touch to set the ball onto his right-foot and, with a low drive through a defender’s legs and into the far corner of the goal past a partially unsighted Sainsbury, Callum BAUGHAN registered his first ever AFC Totton goal to level the scores at 2-2.

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OFF THE MARK: Callum Baughan scored his first ever AFC Totton goal against Paulton Rovers.

The visitors made a change, freshening up their forward line by bringing off Jack Ball and sending on Will Harvey. Thomas caught Olumuyiwa dawdling in possession mid-way inside his own half and played Butcher in-behind the towering centre-back. Medway closed in quickly, forcing Butcher to rush his shot and Skrzyniarz was able to save low down.

Ryan Pennery, who scored from the penalty spot at Gosport in mid-week, came on for the last 30 minutes, with Hisham Kasimu making way. Paulton also made a change, replacing George Fowler with Nathan Brown.

Hoey and Jefford did well to win a corner down the left-hand side for Totton, but when the corner was cleared, Hoey’s determination to prevent Ibrahim breaking away at pace got the better of him, which earned Paulton a free-kick and the Stags’ substitute a yellow card amid angry recriminations from some of the Paulton players and pitch-side staff.

When everybody calmed down, the faint, eery sound of Christmas music could be heard from a festive tree salesman’s tannoy beyond the stand on the Salisbury Road side of the ground. In the 68th minute, Will Harvey took on Jefford but Medway read the danger and got across to whisk the ball away from the Rovers substitute as he tried to surge into the Totton penalty area.

The industrious Freddie Read fed Ethan Taylor on the right-hand side for Totton, who glided in front of two Paulton defenders before chipping the ball to the far post where Griffin snuck in unnoticed to head at goal from a tight angle, hitting the side-netting.

But, on the 76th minute, the more lively visitors went ahead for the third time in the match. Butcher managed to get free in the space behind Baughan to get to the left-wing byline. His low cross resulted in a close-range shot by Will HARVEY - Skrzyniarz managed to block but the Rovers No.12 was first to the rebound and completed a simple finish to put his side back in front.

With about 15 minutes to go, Totton began to play a more direct game. Olumuyiwa’s angled pass was controlled by the chest of Baughan, who laid it off to the overlapping Taylor. His cross was quickly repelled and in his determination to win the ball back, he became frustrated and conceded an unnecessary foul high up the pitch that enabled Paulton to regroup.

As a cold rain came down to remind everyone which month of the year it is, both sides made substitutions for the last 10 minutes. Brett Williams came on to replace Freddie Read for the Stags, Dan Sackman looking to pile the pressure on to get at least a point out of the encounter. Taylor checked onto his left foot and sent over an in-swinging cross to which Neil Martin had to improvise an acrobatic backward header that flew closer to his team’s left-hand upright than he would have liked. The resulting corner was well-defended at the back post.

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ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK: Sam Griffin carries the fight to Paulton Rovers at the Snows Stadium.

Totton had lacked fluency throughout the second half, misplacing far too many easy passes in midfield and unable to decide as a team whether to impose themselves upon the opposition with a high-energy press or to sit back and guard against the pace of the Rovers forwards. In the end, they did neither one thing nor the other and were consequently unable to raise the intensity of their game when it was required. Having got themselves in front, Paulton were happy to soak up pressure and wait for mistakes to present the opportunity to counter-attack or to simply pump the ball upfield.

And with two minutes of normal time remaining, Paulton substitutes Brown and Harvey played a one-two to plot their way into the Totton penalty area, Nathan BROWN striking into the bottom-left corner. Skrzyniarz got something on it but not enough to prevent the visitors going 4-2 up.

The hosts rallied, Williams dribbling down the right wing and, although his cross was blocked, Baughan followed up to centre for Hoey whose snapshot from the edge of the area went wide. With 6 minutes of injury time indicated, Paulton took every opportunity to slow the game down. When Totton had the ball, they were able to switch the play from one flank to the other efficiently enough but their forward passes lacked the penetration that has epitomised most of their football so far this season, as they struggled to lay a glove on their opponents towards the end. Paulton saw the game out and took all three points with them on the coach journey back to Bath.

The Stags will need to shake this defeat off quickly to ready themselves for the visit of league leaders Frome Town on Tuesday night, who extended the gap at the top of the Southern League Div.1 South with a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Willand Rovers. Sholing also capitalised on Totton’s defeat by beating Bristol Manor Farm 2-1 at the Mackoy Stadium, to overtake the Stags in 2nd place. Paulton are 5th behind Cirencester Town, who were denied victory by a 93rd-minute penalty that earned strugglers Mangotsfield United an unlikely away point.

by Ben Rochey-Adams

Images courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography

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