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Saturday 11 November 2023 | Penydarren Park, Merthyr Tydfil | Att: 679


MERTHYR TOWN                        1
Lewis Powell 38mins

AFC TOTTON                                  3
Joe Turner 35mins, 63mins;
Scott Rendell 90+2mins (pen)

TWO GOALS FROM DEBUTANT Joe Turner plus a late penalty from top scorer Scott Rendell steered AFC Totton to a valuable away win against Merthyr Town in South Wales yesterday (Saturday 11 November 2023), that resulted in The Stags leaping over their hosts into fifth place in the Southern League Premier Division South table.

With Matty Burrows and Ethan Taylor both struggling for fitness, Manager Jimmy Ball added to his squad during the week with the signing of former Tonbridge Angels attacking midfielder Joe Turner, who came straight into the team to make his AFC Totton debut at Penydarren Park. Alfie Stanley replaced Jordan Chiedozie, who was joined on the substitutes bench by another new signing in the shape of 17-year-old former Hamworthy United midfielder Ashton Pickles.

Merthyr Town welcomed back Lewis Powell, who they recalled from his loan at Cinderford Town. The prolific striker has a long and storied history of scoring goals against The Stags on behalf of teams such Mangotsfield United and Larkhall Athletic over the years, as The Martyrs added to the firepower of the side that lost to Totton in the First Round of the Isuzu FA Trophy at the Snows Stadium on the last day of October.

AFC-Totton-badge.pngAFC TOTTON
Starting XI

1.  Lewis NOICE
2.  Benny READ
6.  Luke HALLETT
15.  Sam MAGRI
3.  Jordan RAGGUETTE
7.  Joseph OASTLER
5.  Charlie KENNEDY
17.  Leon MALONEY
18. Joe TURNER
9.  Scott RENDELL (Capt.)
16.  Alfie STANLEY
12.  Jordan CHIEDOZIE
14.  Lewis BROWN
19.  Ashton PICKLES
20.  Owen PELHAM

Remembrance Day was honoured by the playing of The Last Post by a bugler, followed by an impeccably observed two minutes of silence.

Alfie Stanley got the game underway from the centre spot, decked out in the AFC Totton away kit go gun metal grey shirts with fluo yellow trim, grey shorts and yellow socks. Their hosts wore black-and-white stripes with black shorts and white socks.

As an early Totton attacking move broke down, Charlie Kennedy was quick to nick the ball back from the toe of Martyrs captain Matthew Harris to redirect it to Stanley on the left flank. A short, sharp exchange of passes with Scott Rendell enabled Stanley to deliver into the middle where Joe Turner was lurking. Merthyr goalkeeper Jaimie Cogman stepped off his goal line to intercept the ball before it could reach the new man.

A through-ball from Merthyr right-back Callum Ryan-Phillips threatened to put Oliver Mehew in on goal in the inside-right channel but Lewis Noice was fast out of his box to kick clear on the 3G surface.

The Merthyr defence were keen to pass the ball around across their own penalty area, with Cogman regularly joining in. But there was a tentativeness about the way they executed their passes that suggested Totton might get some joy from pressing high up the pitch.

Alfie Stanley lost possession in the centre-circle and the ball was clipped out to the right, where Lewis Powell beat Sam Magri to it and sent in a low cross that Luke Hallett had to swipe away with his left foot. The resulting corner was hung towards the back post, where Hallett was well-positioned to flick away from Powell.

Luke Hallett-5_AFC Totton vs Salisbury_SLPDS-2_Sat12Aug2023.jpg
RISE AND SHINE: Luke Hallett produced a sterling defensive display to help The Stags on their way to a battling away win at Penydarren Park.

A one-two with Turner on the left-hand side, midway inside the Merthyr half, resulted in a foul on Jordan Ragguette and an opportunity for Leon Maloney to cross the ball into the home side’s area. The ball was nodded out towards the right flank where Benny Read took control and centred, tempting Turner into an acrobatic overhead kick that flew high and wide to deny him what would have been a spectacular debut goal.

An awkward bounce got the better of Ragguette and released Mehew down the Merthyr right, until the ball skipped off the surface and out of play before he could catch up with it. Then, Turner dropped deep to receive a short pass from Kennedy and picked out the forward run of Ragguette down the wing, causing Ryan-Phillips to intercept for the home side. Totton got about him and tried to press the black-and-white shirts into their own defensive third, but Merthyr retained their composure and moved the ball to safety on the left-hand side.

A ricochet in midfield gave Mehew space to exploit behind Ragguette but his cross was too close to Noice, who gathered comfortably. Then, central defender Jack Evans brought Ragguette down as he launched another forward foray, although The Stags were unable to capitalise on the free-kick.

Magri and Ragguette were both required to make important defensive interventions, as Merthyr managed a brief period of midfield dominance. They had an optimistic appeal for hand-ball in the Totton box turned down, as Joe Oastler came away with the ball from a left-wing Merthyr offensive.

Totton were struggling to contain their hosts, reduced to clearing the ball long rather than picking out the forward players to initiate attacking moves. Powell beat Magri to a loose ball and looked for Mehew on the right, whose cross was cut-out by Ragguette. But as the Totton left-back tried to pirouette away from trouble on the edge of his own box, the ball was poked back to Mehew whose low cross from the right byline found Frazer Thomas coming into the box with the whole goal to aim at. He went for power and blasted his effort over the crossbar from about 14 yards.

Charlie Kennedy-1_AFC Totton vs Plymouth Parkway_FATr3Q_Sat07Oct2023.jpg
MR. VERSATILE: Charlie Kennedy earned praise for a solid performance in AFC Totton's midfield in the Southern League Premier Division South victory at Merthyr Town.

A poor back-pass gave Cogman too much to do to keep the ball in play, resulting in a left-wing Totton corner. Maloney crossed to the far side where Magri headed back across, before Merthyr managed to clear.

A cross from deep on the Merthyr left flew over Totton’s central defenders to Ragguette, who miss-kicked his clearance into the sky. Hallett followed the flight of the ball and made a strong tackle five yards outside the Totton box to ensure The Stags retained possession, bringing some appeals from the home crowd for a free-kick. The Referee allowed play to continue and Hallett charged forward out of defence, putting in another firm challenge to prevent Noah Smerdon stealing the ball, Smerdon losing a boot in the process as Hallett forced the ball forwards to Turner. A neat touch took the former Tonbridge Angel away from his marker and he whipped in a cross from the right, which Cogman had to dive out to the edge of his six-yard box to push away with both hands with Rendell looking to pounce.

But it proved to be only a short reprieve for the home side. A sliding defensive clearance by Hallett on 35 minutes fell to Oastler in midfield, whose header found Benny Read on the right. After shielding the ball away from a challenger, Read passed infield to Oastler who picked out Alfie Stanley on the right touchline. Despite being tightly marked, a one-two with Kennedy enabled Stanley to drive infield towards goal and, as the defender ahead tried to close him down, Stanley slipped the ball into the run of Joe TURNER at inside-right, who fired under Cogman and into the bottom-left corner of the net to introduce himself to AFC Totton’s travelling support in style.

However, the lead only lasted three minutes. As Merthyr tried to attack through the middle, Hallett’s sliding tackle appeared to avert the danger. But the ball bounced kindly for Frazer Thomas on the right wing, enabling him to attack the byline and pull the ball across for an unmarked Lewis POWELL to convert from the edge of the six-yard box and level the scores.

With their tails up, the home side were soon on the attack, again. A clever reverse pass from Thomas Handley slipped the ball inside Ragguette for Mehew to get in down the Merthyr right, but Hallett kept his concentration in to head clear in the middle. Then, a sweeping move that began at right-back with Ryan-Phillips and made its way to the opposite wing via Thomas, gave Smerdon the opportunity to fire in a low cross that Lewis Noice reacted well to claim at his near post.

Stanley cut in from the left flank and floated a cross towards the far post where a defender managed to flick the ball away before Turner could head at goal. Shortly before the half-time break, Charlie Kennedy had his name taken for a late bodycheck on the Merthyr left-back Noah Smerdon.

MERTHYR TOWN                                1
AFC TOTTON                                           1

Penydarren Park-2_Merthyr Town_Nov2023.jpg

Kennedy was in the action again, just after the second half got underway. Totton worked the ball to the edge of the Merthyr area from the left-hand side. With his back to goal, Rendell teed up Kennedy for a 20-yarder which he struck over the bar.

Frazer Thomas scurried into space down the Merthyr left, forcing both Magri and Ragguette to smother his cross out for a corner. Alex John took the corner and his cross eluded everybody in the box to emerge on the far side.

Some impressive ball juggling by Turner enabled he and Rendell to work the ball out of a tightly congested area in midfield to feed Read on the overlap down the Totton right wing. He skipped past Smerdon and picked out Kennedy in the middle, whose shot was deflected over the bar for a corner by Callum Ryan-Phillips. Maloney’s drilled cross was headed out but Merthyr’s attempt to launch a counter-attack was let down by some poor ball control.

Read conceded a corner on the Merthyr right. John’s cross found a teammate but his shot was deflected wide by Stanley for another corner. Rendell headed the next cross away, with Turner completing the clearance from the edge of the area.

At the other end of the pitch, Turner and Ragguette combined to slip the latter into the left-wing corner, from where his low cross was stabbed away at the near post. Totton regained possession in midfield and Maloney tried to thread a pass between the defenders for Rendell to run on to, but the pass was too hard for the centre-forward to connect.

Totton had started the second half as the brighter of the two sides. Noice’s long kick from outside his area was chested down by Rendell to Maloney on the left touchline. He checked infield on his right foot and sent an in-swinging cross to the far post. It dipped over the last defender and landed on the head of Alfie Stanley, who couldn’t get enough purchase on his header to direct it at goal, the ball bouncing wide to the right.

Joe Turner may not have kicked a ball in anger for the last three weeks, but he showed good energy in closing down Noah Smerdon to win possession back midway inside the opposition half. He crossed into the middle and Merthyr headed away the initial threat. Stanley and Rendell both came forward as The Stags tried to keep the move alive but Cogman came off his line to claim the ball.

Benny Read won the ball with a strong tackle in the centre-circle, then moved back to his own position to join in the attack down the Totton right. Turner was the furthest man forward and when the ball came to him, he knocked it short to Stanley, who attacked the inside-right channel and stung Colman’s palms with a fierce angled shot, with Read’s follow-up shot being smothered and cleared.

Read got in again down the right but his pass infield wrong-footed both Turner and Maloney, enabling Merthyr to launch a counter that was halted by Ragguette on the opposite flank, midway inside Totton’s half. The visitors were warming up, getting their short passing game going, and a move involving Oastler and Turner put Read into a crossing position from the right-wing touchline. Stanley received the ball but a heavy touch with a defender at his shoulder meant he had to improvise a low cross of his own, which was turned away before it could reach Rendell.

Turner showed neat feet to escape an opponent in his own half, only to be brought down. The ball fell into Totton possession, so the Referee waved play on and Read was soon feeding Stanley to centre from the byline. His cross was turned away for a corner and that proved to be his last contribution to the game, as he was then substituted for Jordan Chiedozie. Merthyr headed Maloney’s cross away.

Totton could sense they were getting the upper hand. A press gang of Scott Rendell, Leon Maloney and Benny Read forced the home side back into their left-back corner, some composed passing required to eventually work their way out. When the ball came into the Totton half, Noice came a long way out of his goal to kick clear. Rendell nodded down to Turner, whose pass released Ragguette to skip past Ryan-Phillips, charge into the left side of the penalty area and strike a cross-shot that flashed over Colman’s crossbar.

Benny Read got forward again, bustling his way into the Merthyr area at inside-right before his low cross was hooked out by Handley. Totton regained possession and after a few hot potato touches from the men in gun metal grey around the edge of the Merthyr box, Ragguette let fly with a left-footed shot that flew narrowly over the bar.

The Stags’ assertiveness paid dividends in the 63rd minute. The Merthyr defence were passing the ball amongst themselves but couldn’t find a way out through Totton’s press. A loose back-pass sold Cogman short at the left corner of his penalty area (on the Totton right), the goalkeeper nevertheless doing well to get some part of his body to the ball after Maloney had pounced and tried to centre. The ball spun high into the air, giving Cogman time to get up and rush back towards his goal. Positioned on the left of the D, an unmarked Joe TURNER had time and space to watch the ball on to his right foot before executing a delicious volley into the top-left corner of the goal, well out of the reach of Cogman’s despairing dive.

Joe Turner_New Signing_AFC Totton_11Nov2023.jpg
DREAM DEBUT: New signing Joe Turner made a big impact on his first day as an AFC Totton player, helping himself to two goals in his new team's 3-1 victory at Merthyr Town.

Merthyr tried to hit back straight away, with Magri having to stand strong to use his torso to block Powell’s shot, after the home side had moved the ball into the middle from the right flank. Then, the lively Frazer Thomas exchanged passed with a teammate to find a pocket of space in the middle of the Totton half, prompting Maloney to scamper back and make a sliding tackle that - perhaps harshly - resulted in a free-kick about 30 yards from the Totton goal. With plenty of black-and-white shirts taking up advanced positions, Alex John clipped it high towards the back post where Noice confidently claimed the ball, bringing groans of derision from the largely partisan 679-strong crowd.

Read conceded a free-kick in the centre-circle, from which Thomas and Powell fashioned a shooting chance for the latter from just outside the box; Noice saved with a sharp dive to his left.

Rendell was presented with a shooting chance from 30 yards following an under-hit clearance from Cogman, but he couldn’t keep his shot down. Then, Hallett was across quickly to beat Ricardo Rees to a through-ball down the Merthyr left wing.

Ragguette intercepted a pass on the opposite flank and tried to play Chiedozie in behind the advanced Merthyr defensive line. Cogman came a long way out of his goal; it looked as though he had originally intended to bring the ball down on his chest but as it bounced up, he was still able to improvise a header off the top of his head to prevent Chiedozie being gifted the freedom of South Wales behind him and a chance of an open goal.

Frazer Thomas appeared to be Merthyr’s most likely source of another equaliser but his attempts to create chances from their left-hand side were often scuppered by Totton’s resolute defending, with The Stags XI including four recognised central defenders - three of them vastly experienced footballers and the other the club’s reigning Supporters’ Player of the Year.

Oastler made a rare foray into an advanced position on the right wing. His cross prompted a defensive scramble from which Rendell was able to wrestle possession back and tee up Kennedy, but his shot from outside the box lacked the power to test Cogman.

Penydarren Park-1_Merthyr Town_Nov2023.jpg

With his team chasing an equaliser, Merthyr Town manager Paul Michael made three substitutions. Strangely, he did not make them all at once but rather  one after the other, as though trying to run the clock down. The changes in personnel briefly altered the momentum of the game. Read had to nip in to dispossess Rees, as he threatened the Totton goal from the Merthyr left-wing byline. Then, Hallett cleared into touch to repel another attack, before a long-range effort was deflected wide for a corner on the Merthyr right. The resulting cross was headed down by a Totton defender and fell to Powell, whose shot was saved by Noice close to his goal line.

Smerdon whipped in a cross from the Merthyr left, which Hallett headed away. Magri did likewise from the home side’s next attempt to get the ball into the danger zone. Merthyr sub Liam Angel did well under pressure to evade Chiedozie but Hallett was there to head away again, when the ball came flying into the Totton box from deep on the right.

A foul by Kennedy on Thomas gave Merthyr a free-kick in a dangerous area on their right, providing a chance to get the big boys up from the back. The cross was flicked away by the head of Magri, and Chiedozie was on-hand to complete the clearance with an up-and-under downfield.

Four minutes of stoppage time were indicated. Jordan Ragguette found himself in unfamiliar territory at the Totton right-wing corner flag after exchanging passes with Rendell and then taking the ball into the corner to run down the clock. A heavy touch put the kibosh on that idea but from the throw-in, Merthyr Town punched the Self-Destruct button. A poor pass infield left Cogman with little option but to rush his clearance. The ball looped into the air and was quickly returned into the corner of the area where Rendell was bundled over as he took it under control. The Referee didn’t hesitate in pointing to the penalty spot and Scott RENDELL kept his composure to register his 17th goal of the season, and his eighth in the last five games.

Noah Smerdon made a surging run down the left wing and found Gethyn Hill with his cross, the substitute driving in a low, angled shot that Lewis Noice gratefully claimed with a smart save.

Jordan Chiedozie was shown a yellow card for a late foul on Liam Angel, who immediately joined him in the Referee’s notebook for his angry reaction. But there was no time left for that particular feud to develop as the Referee blew the final whistle just a few moments later.

FA CUP AFC Totton v Berkamsted Jimmy Ball.jpg

After the match, AFC Totton Manager Jimmy Ball (pictured) said:

“I’ve got to say, I think they are an excellent side. They play really good, brave football and they played very, very well. We always create good chances and we took them, today. That was the difference, as it was between us and Hungerford last week. You have to take chances, that’s what the game is all about. We did that better than them, today, but the football they played was enjoyable to watch - painful at times, but fair play to them, they are a cracking side.

“Both teams wanted to play, so it was a game of chess to begin with. You have to make sure you impose yourself on the game, get your passing going before they do otherwise you’re always on the back foot. That was what the first half was - we made three chances and scored, and they did the same. It was a very even first half but in the second half, we did what we do a bit better; it still wasn’t great but we took our chances.

“We’re looking for better decision-making on the final ball. It’s just little things, really; we’re not quite there at the moment but we are getting there. Joe Turner brought knowhow, quality on the ball, eye for goal from midfield, size, strength, experience. He hasn’t played for three weeks, either, so he’ll be better for that and fitter, so I’m pleased for him. Charlie Kennedy did great, today, playing a slightly new role in midfield with licence to get forward a bit more when he can. I thought he did really well.

“Wednesday night against East Cowes is another important game for us. It’s a game we want to win, so I don’t anticipate many players being rested. We’ll be paying all due respect to the competition and doing our very best to win the game.”

The latest Southern League Premier Division South table

AFC Totton Fixtures 2023/24

Servio Hampshire Senior Cup | Third Round | Snows Stadium, Totton | Wednesday 15 November 2023 | Kick-Off at 7:45pm | Purchase your ticket(s) online in advance

By Ben Rochey-Adams

Selected images courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography

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