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Saturday 16 March 2024 | The Meadow Stadium, Chesham, Buckinghamshire | Att: 819


CHESHAM UNITED                     2
Jordan Edwards 3mins;
Lewis Rolfe 49mins

AFC TOTTON                                  0

LEAGUE LEADERS CHESHAM UNITED brought AFC Totton’s recent run of 12 games unbeaten in all competitions to an end in front of a crowd of 819, under the shadow of the Chiltern Hills at The Meadow Stadium in Buckinghamshire on Saturday (16 March 2024).

Josh Gould returned in goal, after sitting out the midweek Servio Hampshire Senior Cup Semi-Final win over AFC Bournemouth. Ben Jefford replaced the injured Jordan Ragguette at left-back. Tony Lee returned to the starting line-up, with Matty Burrows dropping to the bench, alongside Leon Maloney who has recovered from what was originally feared would be a season-ending muscle injury at Didcot Town a fortnight ago.

AFC-Totton-badge.pngAFC TOTTON
Starting XI

13.  Joshua GOULD
2.  Benny READ
6.  Luke HALLETT
15.  Sam MAGRI
14.  Ben JEFFORD
7.  Joseph OASTLER
5.  Charlie KENNEDY
9.  Scott RENDELL (Capt.)
18.  Tony LEE
10.  Ethan TAYLOR
1.  Lewis NOICE
4.  Owen PELHAM
11.  Matty BURROWS
16.  Luke BENNETT
17.  Leon MALONEY

Wearing kits of claret and blue, featuring a white fade effect in the middle of the shirt, the home side got about their visitors straight from the kick-off, and took the lead within three minutes. Bradley Clayton dashed towards the left-wing byline, eluding Ethan Taylor’s attempt to dispossess him with a sliding tackle, before picking out at team-mate at the back of the penalty area; Jordan EDWARDS shuffled the ball away from his marker and drove his shot into the bottom-left corner beyond Josh Gould’s outstretched hand.

Totton, in their changed kit of gun metal grey and fluo yellow, won a free-kick on the left-hand side. Joan Luque floated the ball to the far side of the D, where Scott Rendell headed into the area. Chesham skipper Kieran Murphy diverted the ball out for a corner on the Totton right, from which Luke Hallett had a shot deflected wide for another corner on the same side. This time, the ball fell for Tony Lee at the far post but his shot on the turn was deflected to within reach of The Generals’ goalkeeper, Zaki Oualah.

The home side forced Totton back, with Lee and Rendell both dropping deep to help their defence, the former heading out a Jack Connors delivery before the latter brought Callum Adebiyi down with a robust challenge just off the left corner of the penalty area. Edwards sent in a curling cross that Ryan Upward came within a hair’s breadth of connecting with via a diving header before Gould dived forward to claim the ball near the penalty spot.

An unfortunate ricochet off a Chesham defender while chasing back to track Luque sent the ball into the feet of Lee, who tried his luck from 25 yards only to see his shot charged down. Then, Taylor’s free-kick for a foul on Luque on the right flank was headed away by Murphy.

Joe Oastler nicked the ball in the centre-circle and drove forward, forcing a corner from the Totton left. Luque’s delivery dipped over Murphy at the near post and needed to be hacked off the line by the tall figure of Upward, who was quickly in on Kennedy to win the ball back from the resulting throw-in and set Chesham away on the counter-attack. Recent Chesham signing James Harding scampered down the left wing but Sam Magri was able to intervene and pass safely back to Gould.

Chesham were well-equipped to deal with Totton’s aerial assault, despite Rendell and Lee both winning their initial flick-ons. Magri, Luque and Kennedy all took turns at trying to run at the defence, before Benny Read and Taylor attacked from the right flank, without producing end product.

Luque judged a dropping ball better than his marker but as he tried to work an opening from outside the Chesham box, a toe-poke tackle diverted the ball into Chesham possession, allowing them to counter. By the time Clayton dribbled into the Totton penalty area, there were plenty of grey shirts back in position to man the defences, Taylor diligently tracking back to give his opposite No.10 nowhere to go to earn a goal-kick.

The Generals were forced into an early substitution midway through the first half, with Adebiyi coming off to be replaced by Eoin Casey. Oualah hit a long goal-kick down the middle of the pitch. Edwards held off Hallett long enough to feed the ball into the path of Harding’s run, causing Magri to over-stretch and bring the former Swindon Supermarine and Salisbury forward down for a free-kick just left of the D, also at the expense of a yellow card for the big Stags centre-back. With three players standing over the ball, it was Edwards who went for goal with a low curling shot that deflected off the defensive wall and struck the foot of the right-hand post, before bouncing out of play. Read and Taylor were both alert to the short corner routine and cleared Totton’s lines.

The imposing figure of Kieran Murphy continued to dominate the skies above The Meadow Stadium, heading away one high delivery after another as Totton struggled to find an effective way past the home defence. Totton had to defend another free-kick for a foul by Kennedy on Upward, about 10 yards from the left corner of the penalty area. Edwards curled in a dangerous in-swinging cross that Oastler did well to steer wide for a corner while running back towards his own goal. Rendell headed Connors’ cross away at the near post.

Luque received Hallett’s long pass and danced around Casey at inside-right, but his lay-off gave the overlapping Read little chance of reaching the ball before it ran out of play. Hallett and Luque were both pressed back into defensive action, turning away crosses for an eventual corner. Magri then sliced a clearance into the air, before a free-kick for a push on Hallett relieved the pressure.

Read was fouled by Connors on the Totton right but when The Stags delivered into the box, Murphy was there again to head clear. Luque latched on to Hallett’s pass to run at the Chesham captain, who knocked the ball behind for a corner. Luque crossed high to the far post, where Hallett sprung above his man to head firmly at goal. Oualah seemed to know little about it but managed to divert the ball against the underside of the crossbar, before the Referee intervened, saying that Luque’s cross had curled out of play on its way across Chesham’s goalmouth.

Hallett and Oastler both had to win aerial battles in their own half of the pitch, before the former Havant & Waterlooville man was caught by a loose elbow from Edwards, who was at least apologetic while the Totton No.7 received treatment that left him with cotton buds soaking up the blood from his nose. While that was going on, the board was displayed to indicate five minutes of first-half stoppage time.

Read advanced to the right-wing byline and pulled the ball back to Ethan Taylor, whose clipped cross was headed out as far as Lee. His shot was blocked and Chesham needed three attempts to clear, as Totton kept coming at them. Luque played Read in on the right, again, and his low centre put Rendell into a challenge with Oualah, from which the goalkeeper got hurt and was awarded a free-kick.

Murphy headed away another Totton attack, as Taylor, Read and Luque combined in search of a way in. Edwards beat Read to the loose ball and, with open acreage on offer to the Chesham forward, Kennedy channelled his inner scrum half to bundle his opponent to the ground in the centre-circle for a deserved yellow card. Edwards had the first half’s last effort on goal with an attempted overhead kick, which sailed high over Josh Gould’s crossbar.

Chesham United_The Meadow-1_SLPDS-32_Sat16Mar2024.jpg

CHESHAM UNITED                   1
AFC TOTTON                                0

As in the first half, Chesham were quick out of the blocks from the restart, winning a corner on their left. It was played short to Upward, whose lack of trust in his own left foot allowed Taylor time to run out and charge down a shot from outside the box.

The Generals were not to be denied for long. A high cross by Clayton from the home side’s right wing was headed towards goal by Edwards. It hit a Totton defender and fell kindly for full-back Lewis ROLFE to hook a left-footed shot into the right corner from close range to double Chesham United’s lead.

From the main stand at The Meadow, it is difficult to see the area of the pitch immediately in front of the concrete dug-outs. Needless to say, the yellow card was waved in the vague direction of somebody sitting on the bench, as the afternoon became an increasingly frustrating one for the travelling Stags contingent.

Kennedy headed clear a Chesham free-kick from the home side’s right flank. Jimmy Ball withdrew Benny Read and sent on Luke Bennett, to operate as an attacking right-back. Ben Jefford tried a shot that sailed a long way over. Then, a long period of Totton possession, in which they quickened the pace of their passing, ended with Taylor being ushered out of play at the left-wing byline, before the winger was pulled up for pushing his marker as he attempted to race on to Rendell’s flick-on.

James Harding broke clear from the centre-circle on a counter-attack, brining Josh Gould out of his goal to commit a foul and earn himself a yellow card. The free-kick was shortly to the right of the D; Clayton tried a low, left-footed curling shot which bypassed the defensive wall but was comfortably claimed by Gould, bending to scoop the ball up.

Another yellow card was branded towards the Totton bench for more dissent. Then, Bennett diverted left-back Alexander Lafleur’s cross wide for a Chesham corner. Magri cleared the cross into touch. Lafleur worked the ball to Edwards on the right of Totton’s box, whose cross was deflected behind for another corner. Hallett headed away from the middle of the six-yard box.

Totton managed to get forward and win a free-kick for a trip on Oastler. Luque floated the ball into the well-populated penalty area but the indomitable Kieran Murphy repelled the threat with a headed clearance, before Luque was substituted in favour of Leon Maloney. Lewis Rolfe was booked for tugging Taylor back near halfway, then Joe Oastler followed him into the Referee’s notebook for a foul on Edwards, whose name was also taken for something he said. Rolfe’s free-kick was headed out by Magri under pressure, falling to Clayton, whose low drive was saved low to his right by Gould.

Ben Jefford was then substituted in favour of the more attack-minded Matty Burrows, with Ethan Taylor slotting in at left-back so Burrows could work from the wing. Kennedy was caught in the face by a high foot, then Bennett pulled back from the right to find Taylor on the edge of the Chesham box. His square pass was whisked off Maloney’s foot, but Kennedy redirected the loose ball to Burrows on the left, who aimed a low cross to the near post that was turned away.

Burrows received a pass from Rendell and forced a corner on the left. He took it himself, picking out Bennett at the far post, whose shot struck Connors and bounced into the arms of Oualah, standing on his goal-line. The home side then made a double substitution, Edwards and Harding making way for T’Sharne Gallimore and the Southern League Premier Division South’s leading goalscorer, Ricardo German.

Ethan Taylor was the fifth AFC Totton player to have his name added to the Referee’s Naughty Boy list, after reacted angrily to a decision going against him for a push on Rolfe. Burrows presented Murphy with a different type of problem to that which he had dealt with faultlessly throughout the afternoon; Roddy Collins had his back, punting the ball out of the ground just as Burrows appeared to have gotten the better of the Generals’ captain.

Burrows switched to the right, linking up with Bennett from a throw-in to send a high cross into the six-yard box. Upward used his height to good effect to head it away; when the ball came back in, Oualah took command of the situation with a well-taken catch. Then, Bennett got round on the cover to tidy up after Oastler stumbled and lost possession running back towards his own goal, before Taylor lived up to his new billing as a left-back by successfully defending the near post from Clayton’s attempt to dribble directly to goal.

Maloney received the ball on the Totton left, from an over-hit right-wing cross, and centred for Rendell, who was beaten to the ball by Oualah. The board was raised to indicate six minutes of stoppage time. Bennett drove forward down the right and laid off to Burrows, whose high cross was met by Rendell’s head, but he couldn’t steer his effort on target.

With Magri now operating as a makeshift centre-forward, Gould punted long and Totton won a free-kick on the right for a push on Burrows. Taylor’s in-swinging cross looked dangerous, but it was a fraction too high for anyone in gun metal grey to redirect towards goal.

Ricardo German’s brief appeared to be simply to occupy The Stags defence; Hallett made light work of dispossessing the strongly-built striker when he tried to run clear from a through-ball. Burrows fired in a low, angled shot which Oualah saved comfortably. Then, Taylor led a lonely charge down the Totton left, before a tag team of Gallimore and Oualah scraped the ball away from close to the corner flag.

Burrows came within a whisker of halving the deficit, running on to Lee’s lay-off after a long kick from Gould found the striker inside the Chesham box. Burrows let fly with an angled shot that clipped the top of the crossbar and flew over. The winger continued to irritate the Chesham defence, trying to get in behind them to deliver into the box, but it was too little too late as the league leaders saw the game out for a deserved two-goal victory.

Chesham United_The Meadow-2_SLPDS-32_Sat16Mar2024.jpg

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Southern League Premier Division South | Matchday#33 | Snows Stadium, Salisbury Road, Totton SO40 2RW | Tuesday 19 March 2024 | Kick-Off at 7:45pm | SAVE MONEY by purchasing tickets online in advance

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By Ben Rochey-Adams

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