AFC Totton AFC Totton Pitching In - Partners with Southern Football League

Wednesday 06 March 2024 | Snows Stadium, Totton | Att: 386


AFC TOTTON                                           3
Owen Pelham 40mins; Zidan Akers 45mins;
Ethan Taylor 69mins

FOLLAND SPORTS                               1
Ashton Palmer 90mins+2

A RESHUFFLED TEAM, featuring several of the club’s younger players both from the start and for a large portion of the second half, eased AFC Totton into the Semi-Finals of the SDFA Southampton Senior Cup with a comfortable 3-1 win over Wessex League Division One outfit Folland Sports at the Snows Stadium last night (Wednesday 06 March 2024).

Both full-backs from Saturday’s win at Didcot Town were replaced in Jimmy Ball’s starting line-up, with Adam Tomasso and Jordan Ragguette standing down to make way for the returning Benny Read and former Barking left-back Sa-Sean Lutumba. Joe Oastler took the captain’s armband and he was joined in midfield by Owen Pelham, making his fourth Stags start of the season. Luke Bennett, Ethan Taylor and Zidan Akers were also named in the starting XI, with no place in the matchday squad for Scott Rendell, Joan Luque Prados or the injured Leon Maloney. Sam Magri and Lewis Noice were the senior names among the substitutes, with teenagers Miles Gudgeon, Zach Earley and Hugo Rawlings - all three dual-registered with Totton & Eling - filling out the bench.

AFC-Totton-badge.pngAFC TOTTON
Starting XI

13.  Tommy REID
2.  Benny READ
6.  Luke HALLETT
5.  Charlie KENNEDY
3.  Sa-Sean LUTUMBA
7.  Joseph OASTLER (Capt.)
4.  Owen PELHAM
16.  Luke BENNETT
10.  Ethan TAYLOR
18.  Tony LEE
19.  Zidan AKERS
1.  Lewis NOICE
11.  Hugo RAWLINGS
14.  Miles GUDGEON
15.  Sam MAGRI
20.  Zach EARLEY

Following the late postponement of Preston North End’s visit to Southampton in the Championship, due to a large fire affecting industrial units adjacent to St. Mary’s Stadium, approximately 60 travelling PNE fans accepted Totton’s online offer of free entry into the game, and the Lancastrians were treated to a competitive, entertaining cup-tie in which the visitors from Step 6 of the Non-League Pyramid held their own for much of the first half.

Totton wore their by now familiar all-white with blue trim cup kit, with Folland Sports decked out in claret and sky blue shirts, with sky blue shorts and socks, that no doubt only served to encourage the visiting Preston fans to support Totton all the more heartily, given its close resemblance to the traditional colours of rivals Burnley FC.

Ethan Taylor got about the lower division side’s defence early on, attacking from Totton’s left wing to produce a cross and a corner on the opposite side. It was taken short to Taylor, who swaggered into the Folland box and let fly with a powerful shot that goalkeeper Joshua Hoey parried for one his defenders to hook away to safety. Then, central defender Gedeon Matonga had to clear into touch from his own six-yard box to prevent Benny Read’s low cross finding a white shirt.

Folland’s No.8 Ben Taylor put in a strong tackle on Owen Pelham in the centre-circle to claim possession and send right-winger Freeman Nyakumbi into a foot race with Sa-Sean Lutumba, who reacted well to track his opponent, block the cross and move the ball back into midfield for The Stags.

Ethan Taylor’s whipped cross from the left was turned away. Totton regained and recycled possession, ensuring every player got into the game. Read made a darting insurgence into the Folland area from the Totton right, slipping a short forward pass to Luke Bennett, whose cross looped over Tony Lee at the near post and fell to Pelham in the middle of the box. The young midfielder’s shot was charged down and the ball fell to Ethan Taylor, whose deflected effort caused Hoey to spill the ball, though he reacted both quickly and bravely to grab the ball at the second attempt with Lee lurking.

Nyakumbi vs Lutumba was shaping up to be one the game’s more interesting head-to-heads, with The Planemakers looking to their right flank for the out ball while Totton’s left-back stuck diligently to his defensive duties. Lutumba tracked his man to the byline and once again, shut down the cross before Nyakumbi could feed the ball into the danger zone.

A free-kick for a foul on Pelham just off the right corner of the Folland penalty area presented Ethan Taylor with a shooting chance, his low shot breaking through the defensive wall to pull force another save from the already busy Hoey.

Folland went forward and won their first corner of the cup-tie on their left flank. A right-footed, in-swinging cross dropped at the near post but Dameon Gorman in the No.10 shirt scuffed his shot into Charlie Kennedy’s torso before Totton cleared.

Lee attempted a diving header from Read’s cross from the right-wing byline, only to see his effort strike a defender. Then, Ethan Taylor received an incisive diagonal pass from Zidan Akers and skipped past two players on his way into the box at inside-left to set himself for a shot, until Ben Taylor made an excellent last-ditch sliding tackle to take the ball off his toe at the crucial moment.

The bustling Benny Read was enjoying frequent freedom to raid down the right flank for Totton and when Hallett swept the ball forward, it looked as though the full-back might break through on goal himself, but the ball wouldn’t sit down for him and Joshua Perry was able to catch up and hook the ball away. Then, Ilyas Warshow demonstrated impressive pace to beat Lee to a loose ball rolling towards Folland’s left-wing defensive byline to earn a goal-kick from a potentially dangerous situation for the away side.

Akers looked like a man on a mission to score his first goal for The Stags, and he came close when he received possession in the middle of the visitors’ half, turned his marker with a semi-circular dribble to place the ball on his right foot and let rip from 25 yards with a shot Hoey pushed wide with an impressive save low to his right. A short corner gave Ethan Taylor another chance to cross, but the ball floated wide of the far post.

Lutumba was caught out by a clever lofted pass over his head to Nyakumbi, who darted inside his man and into the Totton box; Lutumba retained his composure and spacial awareness to good affect, reaching out his leg to stab the ball away before the winger could take aim. Claims of “Penalty!” fell on deaf ears, while Maciej Marcinkowski latched on to the loose ball and dragged his low shot across goal and wide.

Ben Taylor cemented his status as the visitors’ stand-out performer thus far by bravely throwing himself into another full-blooded tackle to deny Totton progress from the D on the edge of the Folland box. Totton regained possession and Read, Bennett and Akers combined with short, crisp passes to shift their opponents around and allow Akers to deliver into the box; The Planemakers were equal to it once more, turning the ball away before it could reach Lee or Taylor in front of goal.

Folland’s good work was almost undone by a miss-kicked clearance from Hoey, which presented the ball to Akers to the right of goal. His angled shot was deflected beyond the far post for a corner. Bennett’s cross was headed out as far as Ethan Taylor, who shuffled the ball on to his left foot and shot through the crowd but straight at the grateful goalkeeper.

From the AFC Totton dug-out, Manager Jimmy Ball implored his team to “Keep the ball!” which they managed to do for the most part, although Folland Sports had the game’s next opening when Nyakumbi escaped Lutumba’s attention to prompt Tommy Reid to race off his goal-line to slide out and collect, rapidly adjusting his bodyweight to prevent himself from carrying the ball out of the box for a hand-ball offence.

Read made a forward dash into the inside-right channel and demanded Oastler give him the ball. The captain duly obliged, allowing Read to pull back for Pelham to take aim. The shot was blocked and as Lutumba picked up the loose ball, he was taken down for a free-kick about 25 yards from goal. With numbers forward in the Folland box, the kick was played square to Oastler who chipped towards the far post. A defender knocked it down and Ethan Taylor tried to take a touch before his shot was inevitably charged down. The ball broke out towards the Folland Sports dug-out where a late challenge by Ethan Taylor raised the temperature of the game, before Luke Hallett demonstrated his legendary leaping ability to ensure the subsequent free-kick didn’t gain Folland any advantage.

Joe Oastler picked up his now customary yellow card for a late foul on Gorman close to Totton’s left-wing touchline and the half-way line. Skipper Ryan Long miss-kicked his free-kick but Reid still had to be vigilant, coming off his line to confidently punch clear. Folland forced the ball forward again, but Lutumba knocked the ball out of play via Nyakumbi’s shins to earn a goal-kick.

Kenny Gatera strode forward to pick up a loose ball in midfield and spread the play to the right for Nyakumbi, who had managed to isolate Lutumba and worked himself into enough space to drag a cross-shot harmlessly across the Totton area, with nobody else in claret-and-blue far enough advanced to connect. Then, Lutumba could well have done without Pelham providing an overweight pass into the left-back’s corner with Nyakumbi ready to raid, but an ill-advised shove in the back from Gorman let Totton off the hook with a free-kick.

Pelham began to influence the game in much more desired fashion when he sprayed a delightful pass from centre-field to free Read into the right side of the Folland box before a defender poked the ball out. Then, Akers took advantage of a mix-up between defender and goalkeeper to take possession and shoot from close to the penalty spot, but Hoey was almost on top of him and managed to divert the ball past the right-hand post. Ethan Taylor’s cross dropped in the penalty area and Hallett tried to stab at goal, but Folland defended it successfully.

Freeman Nyakumbi was booked for a foul on Lutumba right in front of the Totton dug-out. Then, Pelham - whose usual swashbuckling style of play has been likened by this reporter to that of the former Manchester United and England captain, Bryan Robson - instead channeled his inner Paul Scholes with another inch perfect high diagonal pass from the base of midfield to pick out Ethan Taylor on the left corner of the Folland box. Taylor controlled the ball instantly but still couldn’t shake off his marker, striking for goal anyway to force a corner on the right. A short corner found Pelham outside the box and he chipped to the far post where Oastler’s header pulled a fine save out of Hoey with his right forearm, before his defenders snapped into the formation of a Roman army shield wall to prevent Hallett’s smashed follow-up finding its intended target.

With five minutes to go before half-time, Totton were knocking on the door. Pelham again conducted proceedings with another range-finding pass out to Akers on the right side of the Folland area, and the former Beaconsfield Town man found Ethan Taylor in the middle, who couldn’t get hold of his shot but when the ball broke out to the D, Owen PELHAM controlled on his chest and fired an unstoppable right-foot volley high into the net to put The Stags deservedly ahead with his third senior goal for the club.

Right-back Jacob Brown was the third name in the Referee’s notebook for a cynical foul on Ethan Taylor. The winger picked himself up to receive a short pass that had him taking on the same player on the left corner of the area, before crossing to the edge of the six-yard box. Kennedy stretched to head at goal but only succeeded in knocking the ball over the incoming Akers who, had he let his presence be known, might have had a much easier chance to finish.

Long stepped out of defence again to play Warshow in behind Read on the Folland left. He switched the ball to his right foot as Read scrambled to recover, before blasting his effort high and wide of Tommy Reid’s goal.

The Stags extended their lead on the stroke of half-time when Ethan Taylor took up possession in the middle of the visitors’ half and played a short pass to Pelham. He fed a short diagonal ball along the ground to Zidan AKERS on the left corner of the box, who then shifted the ball infield away from his marker to set himself up for a low right-footed drive inside the near post to register his first AFC Totton goal since joining the club at the end of January.

AFC TOTTON                                            2
FOLLAND SPORTS                                0

When the teams emerged for the second half, Luke Hallett came off to be replaced by Sam Magri, while Folland Sports made two changes by bringing off Dameon Gorman and Ilyas Warshow in favour of Ashton Palmer and Alex Andries.

Bennett troubled the Folland defence with a couple of early second-half crosses - one of them from a corner - but The Planemakers scrambled the ball away on each occasion. Then, a poor touch by Oastler allowed Folland to attack down their right, ultimately winning a free-kick just off the right corner of Totton’s box, although the subsequent delivery was too close to Tommy Reid to cause the lofty ‘keeper any problems.

Neat control and a sharp spin in his own half got Ethan Taylor motoring down the left wing and towards the byline, before he cut the ball back sharply to create a chance for the incoming Bennett; the No.16 went for placement when perhaps power might have been the better option, and Hoey saved with his legs.

Sam Magri indulged his occasional penchant for surging forward on speculative attacking melees by attacking from the inside-right and lifting a cross to the far post which had Hoey reaching high to claim well, before Lee could connect. Ethan Taylor then demonstrated his willingness to take responsibility for the team, dropping deep to collect the ball in central midfield before running at-and-through three defenders to lay off to Akers, who tried to play Read in further wide, forcing a corner in the process. Taylor’s cross brought two headers from white-shirted players but neither were at goal and Folland cleared.

Bennett and Taylor both popped up on the right flank to cause further mischief. Folland poked the ball clear but as they were about to launch a counter-attack, Pelham picked his opponent’s pocket in the centre-circle and Totton were able to recycle possession across the back four and midfield. When they came forward again, Totton played the ball around the Folland area before Pelham passed up the opportunity to feed Lee in a better position and tried to force a shooting chance for himself on his left foot, which was quickly shut down. Ethan Taylor collected on the left wing and floated in a cross that bounced in the area without any white shirts in attendance.

Sa-Sean Lutumba was no doubt pleased to see the back of Freeman Nyakumbi when he was substituted for Allan Grabowski. Bennett took up the ball and led the charge, playing Ethan Taylor in on the left to take on Brown and roll the ball across the penalty area; Akers tried to reach it but it had too much pace and eluded him at the far post.

Jimmy Ball then significantly lowered the average age of his team on the pitch by withdrawing bags of experience in Tony Lee, Charlie Kennedy and Joe Oastler, and sending on three teenagers in central defender Miles Gudgeon, midfielder Zach Earley and forward Hugo Rawlings. Earley was the first to make his presence felt, receiving the ball in a central position outside the Folland box and feeding Lutumba on the left, whose low cross was partially cleared to give Pelham a chance that he fired over the crossbar from just outside the area.

Henry Hubile came on for Kenny Gatera for The Planemakers, but the No.18 merely arrived in time to watch Totton go three-nil to the good on 69 minutes. Growing in influence on the game, Ethan Taylor’s silky turn away from his opponent earned him the room to play Akers down the left side of the penalty area. He pulled back to Pelham, arriving at the edge of the box to lay off to Earley, whose shot was blocked and rebounded back into his possession. With a defender goal-side of him, Earley maintained his composure while surveying the situation and protecting the ball long enough for Read to dart into action towards the right-wing byline via his short pass. The full-back picked out Bennett to the right of the penalty spot, whose shot was parried by Hoey; the ball fell to Ethan TAYLOR to arrow a shot into the bottom-right corner and end the cup-tie as a contest.

Reid caught and then dropped a left-wing corner but Magri knocked the loose ball wide without further incident, before Folland made their fifth and final substitution by taking off Joshua Perry and sending on Bryce Coates-Reid. Benny Read put in a strong tackle near the half-way line but was grounded when Andries picked up the loose ball, glided past Rawlings’ tackle and centred. Marcinkowski got his head to the ball but could only loop it into Reid’s grasp.

Sa-Sean Lutumba stood up well to a two-on-one situation when Folland managed to work a numerical advantage down their right flank. Then, Earley dwelt on the ball in the centre-circle and was dispossessed to allow Folland to attack down the centre; Magri came round on the cover and restored defensive order. Magri stepped up to his role as the senior Totton player on the pitch, conducting the keep-ball passing routines until Rawlings and Taylor were able to attack the right-wing byline. Rawlings fed Akers in the middle, who turned his marker by putting the ball on his left foot, his shot deflecting wide for a corner on the right. Hoey claimed the cross at the near side of his six-yard box, while Ethan Taylor questioned why none of his teammates had attacked that particular area.

A cross from deep on the right found Marcinkowski in space on the edge of the Totton area where, with a bit more confidence and a better first touch, he might well have reduced the deficit, instead opting to lay-off to the right for a teammate whose shot was blocked by Magri. Then, an injury to Lutumba meant that he and Ethan Taylor swapped positions, with the latter taking up the left-back slot and Lutumba operating as a makeshift winger.

Totton kept greedy possession towards the end of the game. Earley’s short pass back found Bennett, who exploited the space in front of him by carrying the ball into the Folland half and spotting Akers making the run to inside-left. With pace to burn and plenty of strength, Akers should have gobbled up his second goal of the night, but a heavy first touch invited Hoey to make a sliding tackle clearance that took the chance away.

Coates-Reid sent in a dangerous looking cross from the Folland left, which Ethan Taylor was able to deal with at the far post. Then, a big clearance down the middle of the pitch presented the visitors with a shooting chance that Magri blocked off with a strong tackle.

However, Folland Sports did manage to get on the scoresheet two minutes into stoppage time. Ben Taylor and Maciej Marcinkowski combined to make progress down the middle, before the latter was tripped in a central position about 25 yards out. Ashton PALMER stepped up and curled a beautiful effort beyond the reach of Reid and into the top-right corner.

Folland briefly rallied and went in search of a second goal, but time was against them and the Referee’s final whistle soon followed.

AFC Totton will face Brockenhurst away in the Semi-Final, on a date yet to be determined, as they strive to make it three SDFA Southampton Senior Cup trophies in a row following back-to-back successes in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.

Southern League Premier Division South | Matchday#31 | Ian Moorcroft Stadium, Ladysmead, Tiverton, Devon EX16 6SG | Saturday 09 March 2024 | Kick-Off at 3:00pm | Purchase your Coach Ticket via StagsTravel (match ticket sold separately at the venue).

By Ben Rochey-Adams

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