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

Saturday 29 March 2024 | Black and Gold Stadium, Poole, Dorset | Att: 746


POOLE TOWN                               0

AFC TOTTON                                  0

PROMOTION PLAY-OFF CHASING AFC TOTTON were held to a goalless Good Friday draw by Poole Town at The Dolphins’ Black and Gold Stadium in Dorset, yesterday (Friday 29 March 2024).

The Stags were without the injured Leon Maloney and in-form striker Tony Lee, whose absence was the consequence of a gentleman’s agreement when he moved between the two clubs in February. Flu victim Sam Magri was fit enough to take a place on the bench, which meant the back four remained the same for the third consecutive match, having successfully shut out both Plymouth Parkway and Beaconsfield Town in The Stags’ previous two outings. Former Maidstone United midfielder Perri Iandolo came in for his AFC Totton start, with Ethan Taylor returning to the starting line-up following his strike against The Rams last weekend.

AFC-Totton-badge.pngAFC TOTTON
Starting XI

1. Joshua GOULD
16.  Luke BENNETT
6.  Luke HALLETT
7.  Joseph OASTLER
14.  Ben JEFFORD
5.  Charlie KENNEDY
8.  Adam TOMASSO
10.  Ethan TAYLOR
9.  Scott RENDELL (Capt.)
19.  Perri IANDOLO
2.  Benny READ
4.  Owen PELHAM
11.  Matty BURROWS
13.  Tommy REID
15.  Sam MAGRI

Despite heavy rainfall in the days leading up to the match, the Tatnam Ground pitch passed two morning inspections to allow the game to go ahead on a bright but overcast afternoon in Dorset. The hosts wore their usual home kit of red-and-white halves, with red shorts and socks, while AFC Totton sported their away kit of gun metal grey with fluo yellow trim. The Stags kicked-off with the ball being rolled back to Joe Oastler to punt for yardage towards the left-wing touchline, where makeshift winger Scott Rendell was already engaged in pressing opposition defenders. The ball landed on the turf but hardly bounced at all, revealing the ground beneath it to still be somewhat sodden.

It was knocked out for a throw-in, which was taken quickly, presenting Joan Luque with the chance to turn infield and strike a right-footed shot that bounced in front of Dolphins’ goalkeeper Max Evans, causing him to parry into the path of the incoming Rendell who prodded the ball towards goal only for ex-Stags defender Jamie Whisken to swipe it off the goal line and prevent his side falling behind within the first 30 seconds.

Poole responded by launching an attack down their right-hand side, but full-back Declan Rose’s high cross drifted too close to man mountain Joshua Gould, who plucked the football from the clouds and launched Totton on the counter-attack. Luke Bennett played Perri Iandolo in towards the right-wing byline and the midfielder cleverly hung the ball up to the back edge of the penalty area where Rendell was arriving, the centre-forward’s header flying straight into the waiting gloves of Max Evans.

The lively start to the encounter continued when Ben Jefford was afforded space to carry the ball into the Poole Town half and pick out Iandolo in the middle, whose first touch enabled him to turn tightly and take aim with a well-struck shot from distance that was only narrowly wide of the left-hand post. The game was then paused while Poole’s towering defender Lindsay Zouma, the younger brother of West Ham United defender Kurt Zouma, received treatment for what appeared to be an abdominal injury.

When play resumed, the hosts probed down their left wing, Luke Hallett taking charge of the situation to calmly lay the ball back for Gould to kick clear. Then, a neat turn by Iandolo on the Totton right enabled him to cross into the box. Whisken’s clearance was intercepted by Charlie Kennedy, who found Luque encroaching infield from his left-wing berth, creating space for Kennedy to loop around on the overlap for the return pass, but Evans reacted well to intercept his low centre, intended for the lurking Rendell.

When these two sides met at the Snows Stadium early in the 2023/24 season, Jake Scrimshaw scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for The Stags. Having since returned to Poole via Gosport Borough, the Isle of Wight-born striker would have been especially motivated to put in a good performance against his former teammates, and his dogged defensive work not only succeeded in shutting down one Totton attack, but he also won a free-kick to relieve pressure on his team. Totton came again, though, and Zouma had to clear from close to the left corner flag, under pressure from a roaming Luke Bennett. Iandolo brought the ball under control but his cross was too strong for Luque to capitalise at the far post.

Totton enjoying the better of the play, and they forced a succession of throw-ins on the right, which culminated in Adam Tomasso playing Ethan Taylor into inside-right, where his cross was blocked at the expense of a corner; Luque’s delivery drifted over the bar. The bald-pated Joshua Staunton conceded another corner on the Totton left, following good work by Jefford, up in support of Iandolo. Luque’s cross threatened to curl in at the near post but was headed off the line. The Stags regained possession, Luque receiving the ball on the left and playing a short, square pass infield to Iandolo, who shuffled it on to his right foot and struck a dipping 25-yard shot that soared just over the Poole Town crossbar.

The home side weathered the storm and mounted an attack of their own, driven by the imposing figure of Harvey Wright carrying the ball through the middle of the pitch and exchanging passes with Billy Lowes to manoeuvre himself to the left wing. He centred with a low cross that eluded both Scrimshaw and Hallett at the near post; Jefford was alert to the danger posed by Toby Holmes, and launched the ball into the stratosphere.

As the day of topsy-turvy weather continued, a bright rainbow arced over the Black and Gold Stadium while heavy rain - audible on the roof of the main stand - fell on one end of the ground with the other end of the pitch remaining dry. Zouma’s abdominal difficulties persisted, so the on-loan Havant & Waterlooville defender was substituted in favour of Harry Hutchinson.

Totton thought they had taken the lead mid-way through the first half, when Taylor’s lofted ball forward was knocked down in the box by Rendell and Luque beat Evans to it to place his shot firmly inside the right-hand post. The Stags’ celebrations were curtailed when they noticed the Assistant Referee holding his flag aloft, most likely for an offside against Rendell from Taylor’s original ball in. Poole’s Billy Lowes then needed some attention for an injury.

Staunton and Rose combined well to repel Iandolo’s cross. Then, Luque took possession on the left wing, midway inside Poole’s half. He drove infield and, as Staunton lunged at him in a vain attempt to block, his 25-yard effort sailed a fraction over the crossbar.

Tomasso made a strong challenge in midfield but the ball broke for the hosts, whose attacking ambitions were again thwarted by Gould using his height to good effect to intercept the cross. Then, Scrimshaw held the ball up long enough for Staunton to get up in support on the Poole Town right and centre with a cross that Oastler headed away. The ball was sent back into the area, where Gould came out to scoop it up. Holmes bodychecked him to the ground and converted the loose ball into the empty net, before receiving a ticking-off from the Referee, who awarded a free-kick to The Stags.

Harry Hutchinson charged forward down the Poole left, but a poor touch gave Hallett the chance to clear. Then, Ben Jefford found himself in nosebleed territory, attacking from left of the penalty area to latch on to Iandolo’s clever flick to strike just over, despite being closely tracked by Staunton, although the flag was up for offside.

Totton appeared to have gotten to grips with the conditions better than the home side and were moving the ball around with plenty of purpose and direction. Jefford clipped a cross-field pass into the box for Rendell to lay back to Luque. For once, though, El Matador got the weight of his forward pass wrong, with Taylor and Iandolo both poised to break into the box.

During two minutes of first-half stoppage time, Iandolo was caught out by an odd bounce off the uneven turf near the centre-circle, but Totton quickly poured back into their defensive third to nullify the threat. Poole’s last foray before the break was aborted by Hallett’s cool back header, bypassing Holmes to the safety of Josh Gould’s gloves.

POOLE TOWN                                   0
AFC TOTTON                                      0

There were no additional changes during the break. Pool Town got the game back underway, with both sides going direct early on. Oastler won a tussle close to Totton’s left defensive corner to remove an early threat. The Stags mounted an attack down their right. Bennett clipped the ball into the area, looking for Taylor, and it flicked up to hit Whisken’s arm, prompting shouts of “Hand-ball!” from the Totton fans behind the goal; the Referee waved play on.

Iandolo went down near the centre-circle after a heavy challenge, that the Referee let go, but he soon produced his yellow card to admonish Jamie Whisken for a late foul on Adam Tomasso that sparked an angry reaction from the Totton players. Then, Taylor was left with a puzzled look on his face when Hutchinson was given the benefit of the doubt with another hand-ball shout near the half-way line, as the winger was ready to race through on goal.

Oastler and Tomasso both made strong challenges in midfield to keep Poole at arm’s length. When the hosts did manage to get the ball into the box from their right-hand side, Scrimshaw attempted an overhead-kick but Hallett knocked the ball away with his head at the last moment.

Perri Iandolo and Juan Luque were both substituted just before the hour mark, with Benny Read and Sam Magri coming on to replace them. Read, usually a full-back, took up position on the right of midfield, while Magri, usually a centre-back, positioned himself alongside Rendell up front. And the two newcomers soon combined to create a goalscoring opportunity. Magri chested the ball down near the centre-circle and hooked it out to the right wing, where Read latched on to it with two defenders in hot pursuit. Racing into the penalty area, Read flashed his shot across goal and narrowly wide of the far post; there were claims that Evans had helped the ball on its way, so it should have been a Totton corner, but the Referee gave a goal-kick.

Jefford and Taylor tried to work an opening from the Totton left, before Magri’s attempt to close down Evans was negated by the goalkeeper’s touch and clearance. Oastler then bundled Scrimshaw to the ground as they chased a pass down the wing, the Referee again letting it go as a fair challenge.

Hutchinson repelled Bennett and Read’s incursion down the Totton right. Then, Magri and Rendell linked up through the middle to find Taylor at inside-left, whose shot was deflected wide for a corner on the right. Taylor took it himself, but his cross was headed away at the near post.

Poole made a double substitution, bringing off Jake Scrimshaw and Billy Lowes to bring on Kaya Tshaka and Kyran Samadi. Tshaka, wearing the No.14 shirt, immediately revealed himself as an attacking threat, keen to get on the ball and run at the Totton defence, earning a corner on the right with his first foray, although Totton defended it well.

Oastler and Kennedy were both required to make defensive headers as Poole threatened again from their right, until a third attempt to get the ball into the Totton box was over-hit. Then, after Rendell’s hooked pass to Read was put out for a throw-in high up the right-wing, Poole countered by getting the ball up to Holmes in the centre-circle. He passed right to Tshaka, prompting an excited reaction from the home fans, but his shot from 22 yards out deflected off Oastler and fell kindly for Gould to collect.

Poole were keen to get the ball to Tshaka as much as possible. Harvey Slade found him with a square pass from midfield but as the winger tried to get the ball across from the right edge of the Totton box, Jefford made a block to deflect it wide for a corner. Gould punched the initial cross away, then Magri headed out the follow-up cross.

Totton were presented with a good opportunity to take the lead on 75 minutes. Rendell’s through-ball was over-hit, and ran on to Evans in the Poole Town goal. But a poor kick from the goalkeeper gave the ball straight to Read on the right, who was able to dart to the byline and send a low centre across the face of goal but there was nobody there in a gun metal grey shirt to apply the finish.

The home side were having more of the possession going into the last 15 minutes of the game. Hallett headed out one high delivery into the Totton box; Tshaka met it with a snapshot that was straight at Gould. When Totton went forward again, Magri and Rendell exchanged short passes to put Taylor through in the middle. With one defender between him and the goal, Taylor shifted the ball to the left and then tried to arrow a low shot into the bottom-right corner, but his aim was slightly off, dragging his shot narrowly wide of the post.

Rendell brought down a long kick from Gould in the centre-circle and tried to play Taylor through, with almost half the pitch for him to run into. Taylor went down, claiming to have been shoved to the ground, but the Referee once again allowed play to continue. Then, Magri held the ball up and played Read in through the middle where only a heavy touch, prompted by a nastily-timed bobble, enabled Evans to race out and close the chance down with a brave block at the makeshift winger’s feet. Evans was hurt in the collision, so the Referee stopped play to allow him to receive treatment.

Oastler survived a penalty shout for a strong challenge on Tshaka at the left corner of the Totton box. Jimmy Ball then made his third and final substitution, bringing Ethan Taylor off to be replaced by Owen Pelham. Oastler then continued his one-man defensive crusade, blocking a shot on the edge of a crowded box, before closely shadowing Holmes as he tried to work an angle for a shot which the former Havant & Waterlooville defender blocked at source.

Poole were playing around the Totton penalty area, looking for a way in. Rendell swiped thin air as he tried to clear, but the defence held firm before The Dolphins again demonstrated their tendency to over-hit crosses from deep.

Bennett carried the fight forward for Totton down the right-hand side, but then lost possession to enable Poole to begin a counter-attack, that Tomasso nipped in the bud by fouling Samadi in the centre-circle.

Five minutes of stoppage time were indicated. With the home crowd encouraging them forward in search of a late winner, Poole peppered the Totton box with crosses of various quality. Holmes teed up Slade for a shot from distance that sailed a long way over the bar. Then, Sam Magri was booked for a late foul on Tshaka in the centre-circle, after his own pass looking for Read on the right wing was flicked away by Hutchinson.

Hutchinson sent the free-kick high to the far side of the penalty area. Holmes headed it back across goal but Oastler was there to defend it. Poole regained possession but once again found Oastler too big an obstacle to traverse. The home side forced a couple of late corners but they couldn’t produce a precise enough delivery to create a goalscoring chance.

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AFC Totton Fixtures 2023/24

Southern League Premier Division South | Matchday#36 | Snows Stadium, Salisbury Road, Totton, Southampton, Hampshire SO40 2RW | Monday 01 April (Easter Monday) 2024 | Kick-Off at 3:00pm | SAVE MONEY by purchasing Match Tickets online in advance | LIVE Commentary on StagsRadio

By Ben Rochey-Adams

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