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Matchday #17

AFC TOTTON                                    3
Hisham Kasimu 18mins, 61mins; Ethan Taylor 70mins

FROME TOWN                                0

Spearheaded by a scintillating virtuoso performance by striker Hisham Kasimu, AFC Totton produced arguably their best league performance of the season at the Snows Stadium last night (Tuesday) to overwhelm Southern League Div.1 South table-toppers Frome Town with a comprehensive 3-0 victory that lifts the Stags back into 2nd-place and closes the gap on the Robins to 6 points, with a game in-hand.

Dan Sackman fielded an unchanged starting XI from that which lost to Paulton Rovers at the weekend, using the opportunity to challenge his players to prove their quality against a Frome team who came into this match having lost only once during their league campaign this season. The Robins may well have had revenge on their minds, too, following the epic Buildbase FA Trophy encounter between these two sides at the same venue a month ago, in which Totton eventually triumphed via a penalty shoot-out.

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There was little to excite the crowd on a cold but dry winter’s evening during an attritional first 5 minutes, before the match suddenly burst into life with a short spell of end-to-end football. Sam Griffin brought Ethan Taylor’s angled pass under control on the left corner of the visitors’ penalty area and used the overlapping run of Jordan Ngalo as a distraction while shifting the ball infield and striking firmly from 20 yards, to force goalkeeper James Carey into his first meaningful action of the night.

Frome then went straight up the other end with attacking midfielder Jonathan Davies and striker Kane Simpson linking through the middle before Davies slipped his teammate into the inside-right channel, where pressure from Harry Medway forced Simpson to shoot early. Amadeusz Skrzyniarz was down quickly to smother the shot. Within a minute, Hisham Kasimu skipped through the red-shirted defence and shot into the side-netting at the visitors’ left-hand post.

Ade Olumuyiwa got across quickly to prevent James Ollis capitalising on a promising Frome move, then Ben Jefford reacted bravely to block a shot from the edge of the penalty area, as the away side looked in vain for a way past the Stags’ defence. Medway demonstrated calmness under pressure and impressive dribbling skills to avoid Simpson’s attempt to press, carrying the ball a long way into opposition territory before drawing a foul. Then, excellent ball control trickery from Freddie Read enabled the midfielder to glide through three players before laying it off to Kasimu, who squared to Ngalo for a 20 yard blast that was blocked by defender Marcus Mapstone.

Although Frome were certainly in the game, Totton were the brighter and more tenacious of the two sides and they put themselves ahead in the 18th minute. Read took control from a left-wing throw-in, turning and shrugging Robins right-back Jack Witcombe off the ball before picking out Taylor in the middle. The winger’s first-time lob freed Hisham KASIMU behind the defence in the inside-left channel, and the in-form striker steadied himself before tucking a precise left-footed shot past Carey and inside the far post.

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CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Two-goal striker Hisham Kasimu tormented the Frome Town defence all evening in their Southern League Div.1 South encounter.

Totton went forward again and won a throw-in on the left, mid-way inside the Frome half. Jefford took it and Sam Griffin controlled the ball, turned sharply past his marker and looped a speculative shot towards the far post where Carey had to be vigilant to pluck it out of the sky.

A miss-directed header by Olumuyiwa presented Rex Mannings with an opening to advance on Totton’s goal. He struck a low, right-foot shot towards the far corner but Skrzyniarz threw himself full-length and pushed the ball away for a corner with his right hand. Davies crossed the ball in from the left-wing quadrant and Mapstone - who scored from a similar situation in the FA Trophy match - headed narrowly over the bar from 8 yards.

Taylor tested Carey with an angled drive from the right-hand side, which the keeper dealt with comfortably. Then, Witcombe managed to get to the right-wing byline for Frome and aimed his cross for Simpson’s head at the far post, but Callum Baughan did enough to prevent the Robins’ danger man troubling Skrzyniarz’s goal.

Totton attacked down the right flank, shortly after the half-hour mark. Ethan Taylor pirouetted past a dumbfounded full-back and then checked onto his left foot, just outside the area, as two defenders struggled to close him down. His fierce shot was well-saved by Carey, the ball rebounding out to the left where Griffin controlled it with an exquisite first touch before bending a right-foot shot over the crossbar.

Ben Jefford was spoken to by the referee about an aerial foul on Mannings. Then, a Frome attempt to break down Totton’s rearguard almost backfired on them when the ball was suddenly cleared up field by Olumuyiwa, sending Kasimu away against a flat-footed Frome defence. Witcombe managed to block Kasimu’s direct path to goal, so the striker shifted the ball to the left and fired wide of the left-hand upright.

The visitors rallied in an effort to bring themselves level before the break. Baughan had to be alert to get in the way of a Mannings drive from the left of the penalty area. Then, Adam Tomasso did well to track the run of Jonathan Davies and put himself between the ex-Stag and Skrzyniarz to ensure the Frome playmaker couldn’t get his shot away in a dangerous position. Skrzyniarz sustained a knock in that passage of play and required treatment, but he soon made a full recovery to ensure his clean sheet remained in tact until half-time.

AFC TOTTON                                    1
FROME TOWN                               0

The Stags remained the more energetic team when the second half began. Kasimu got in down the left-hand side but couldn’t get his shot away. Then, Ethan Taylor attempted a scissor-kick volley from a left-wing cross, Mapstone doing well to smother the chance near the penalty spot.

Frome had a corner on their right-hand side in the 55th minute. Davies’ delivery was too hard and dropped into the Totton right-back area. Taylor, who had been positioned further upfield in anticipation of a counter-attack, raced back into his own penalty area and stole the ball from the toes of a Frome player, before releasing Kasimu to engage Alex Hallett in a foot race down the inside-left. The Stags striker got to the ball first, while Hallett managed to stay goal side of him - that was until Kasimu pulled off an audacious drag-back-and-flick to nutmeg the Robins No.19, side step a second defender and flash his left-footed shot just over the crossbar from 20 yards.

Totton’s French striker was finding joy against the high line of the Frome defence, as the visiting team tried to press for an equaliser, particularly when he was able to isolate lone defenders with wide open spaces to run into behind them. And, in the 61st minute, he added his second goal of the game. A Frome attack was halted when Callum Baughan intercepted an angled pass intended for Mannings on the Robins left, and he passed forward to Taylor, mid-way inside the home side’s half. Totton’s No.10 turned infield to avoid a challenge and then clipped a high diagonal pass up to Sam Griffin, who had drifted infield from his left-wing berth to head the ball between the two Frome Town centre-backs where Hisham KASIMU was able to stride straight through the middle of them and pick his spot with a confident finish beyond Carey to double the Stags’ lead.

It was enough to quell a vociferous 50-strong contingent of Frome fans who had made the mid-week journey from Somerset to regale their Totton counterparts with many of their greatest hits, including “Oh, When the Frome Go Marching In” and “Is This a Library?” By now, they were watching their own team struggle to compete with faster, stronger opponents.

Ethan Taylor brought a save out of Carey with a long-range left-foot effort, before linking up with Griffin in a swift move that enabled the latter to shoot from left of the penalty spot, earning a corner via a deflection. Jefford was spoken to again for a foul committed in the midfield, and then Carey had to dash a long way off his line to hack clear before Kasimu could latch onto a through-ball that would have left him with a free run on goal.

Kasimu and Taylor worked their way down a crowded right wing, before Taylor spotted Griffin lurking at the far post and attempted an in-swinging cross, but the flight of the ball curled away from his teammate and around the far post for a goal kick. The move didn’t come off but it was indicative of Totton’s ability to create chances among teammates who are constantly aware of one another’s positioning among opposition players.

With 20 minutes to go, Totton had fallen back into their own half while Frome defenders passed the ball amongst themselves. Midfielder James Ollis dropped deep to try to get something rocking for the Robins but as he dwelt on the ball as the last man, the tenacious Hisham Kasimu suddenly closed him down and engaged him in a brief tussle inside the centre-circle. That was Taylor’s cue to set off on a run down the inside-right where Kasimu was able to find him with a low diagonal pass. Defenders scampered back to fill up the space but Ethan TAYLOR was the coolest head in Hampshire. He knocked the ball towards the D on the edge of the Frome penalty area and, with a hefty swipe of that cultured left foot, arrowed his shot into the bottom-right corner beyond the outstretched arm of Carey.

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WALLOP!: Ethan Taylor lets fly from the edge of the area against table-topping Frome.

Buoyed by a dominant Stags display and led by the enthusiasm of the fans located in Mally’s Corner, the home support got behind their team with chants of “Totton! Totton!”, but in truth, the match was already won barring late calamity.

Kasimu continued to torment Frome defenders, including the usually impressive Samuel Teale, eating up the ground behind them to ensure they were never able to get comfortable on the ball. A mistake by Mapstone enabled Kasimu to dart through the middle and, as Carey rushed out to the edge of his area, a hat-trick looked to be on until the Frome keeper flung himself onto the ball close to the penalty spot.

Adam Tomasso and Freddie Read were bossing the midfield for Totton, with Taylor frequently dropping in to ensure they were never outnumbered even when the Frome full-backs stepped forward. Taylor did well to hassle Hallett out of possession, waiting for the bounce of the ball before feeding Kasimu who ghosted in behind the left-back. He took aim at the bottom-left corner but couldn’t get enough of his left instep around the ball to achieve the necessary curl, his shot thudding into the advertising boards beyond the far post.

Frome charged forward and worked the ball out to Jonathan Davies on the left wing. He flighted an in-swinging cross into the centre, which Ollis met with a flying header. His connection was true but his aim was slightly off, the ball flying wide of Skrzyniarz’s right-hand post.

Ben Jefford chipped the ball forward down the left to enable Griffin to get at the Frome defence from the left-wing byline, but they were able to clear before the winger could shoot. Then, Ade Olumuyiwa made an excellent last-ditch sliding tackle to slam the door firmly in the face of Davies, as the former Totton player threatened down the inside-right.

Dan Sackman brought on Ryan Pennery and Jordan Ragguette for the last 10 minutes, Ethan Taylor and Sam Griffin going off for a well-earned rest.

Frome’s game had disintegrated by this point, their players now failing to connect with their forward passes and seemingly looking forward to their post-match meals and the coach journey home. Jordan Ngalo had a long-range shot blocked, then Ragguette’s pace required a sliding tackle to prevent him adding to Totton’s goal tally.

Olumuyiwa went forward for a late corner and almost scored when the ball flicked awkwardly off him and looped narrowly wide with Carey stranded. Medway then showed good concentration at the other end to shepherd Frome’s attempted counter-attack wide at the left-hand post.

Davies continued to fashion chances for his teammates whenever he could but when he pulled the ball back to the out-of-sorts Ollis on the edge of the Totton box, his teammate dragged his shot wide of the left-hand post. Then, Ragguette challenged for a header and was able to latch onto the ball himself, shooting high and wide from 25 yards out while Pennery was open to his left.

Jack Masterton made a late cameo appearance, replacing Ben Jefford before the combative left-back could finally exceed the referee’s patience with accumulated fouls, moments before the board went up to indicate 3 minutes of stoppage time.

The evening had begun for many Stags fans immersed in the spirit of the season with a festive jumper inspired pre-match celebration of the Club’s annual Toy Appeal. But Tiny Tim might want to give Ade Olumuyiwa’s house a massive swerve this year. The centre-back out-Grinched the Grinch and cancelled Christmas for Kane Simpson, taking the ball off the striker’s toe as he looked likely to grab a late consolation goal after impressive approach play by Rex Mannings, in a moment that epitomised AFC Totton’s dominance.

The win lifts Totton back above Sholing into 2nd in the Southern League Div.1 South table and will undoubtedly restore confidence in good time for Saturday’s trip to Larkhall Athletic, as the Stags continue their record-breaking adventure in the Buildbase FA Trophy.

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THAT'S THE WAY TO DO IT: AFC Totton players celebrate an emphatic home win.

By Ben Rochey-Adams

Images courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography

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