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MATCHDAY 28 - Saturday 18 March 2023

SLIMBRIDGE AFC                        0

AFC TOTTON                                  1
Scott Rendell 1min

SCOTT RENDELL TOOK JUST 47 SECONDS to head what proved to be the only goal of the game in AFC Totton’s Southern League Div.1 South victory at bottom-of-the-table Slimbridge AFC, in Gloucestershire yesterday (Saturday). The result means that three points at Melksham Town on Tuesday night will see The Stags leap over Sholing to the Step 4 summit and into pole position in the race for the title and automatic promotion.

Having made several changes to the side for Thursday evening’s successful Southampton Senior Cup Semi-Final against Hamble Club, Jimmy Ball reverted to his strongest available line-up for the match at Thornhill Park. Captain Mike Carter, who has had two weeks’ rest, returned to duty in the No.4 shirt, with the central defensive partnership of Charlie Kennedy and Luke Hallett reunited behind him. Charlie Davis replaced Jake Adams, who yesterday joined Bashley on loan until the end of the season, in midfield. Josh Carmichael, Scott Rendell and Ethan Taylor all came back into the starting line-up, too.

AFC-Totton-badge.pngAFC TOTTON
Starting Line-Up

1.  Lewis NOICE
2.  Benny READ
4.  Mike CARTER (Capt.)
5.  Charlie KENNEDY
6.  Luke HALLETT
7.  Charlie DAVIS
9.  Scott RENDELL
10.  Ethan TAYLOR
11.  Tommy WRIGHT
14.  Adam TOMASSO
15.  Jordan RAGGUETTE
16.  Matthew BURROWS
17.  Marcus DAY
18.  Freddie READ

Nine points adrift from safety, The Swans came into the game amid a wretched run of recent form that has seen them lose all of their last six league games with only one win from their last 16 outings, while their visitors came in search of a seventh consecutive league win to power their stampede to the top of the table. And within less than a minute of the kick-off, the game fell into line with the form book.

Decked out in the Totton away kit of fluo yellow shirt, black shorts and yellow socks, Charlie Davis took the kick from the centre-spot to get the game started and the ball was quickly sent towards Ethan Taylor on the right, who found Rendell in the inside-left area, just over midway inside the Slimbridge half. The big centre-forward was charged to the ground from behind, prompting the Referee to award a free-kick. Davis floated a high cross towards the near post area where an unmarked Scott RENDELL flicked his neck muscles to direct the ball inside the left-hand post from about 10 yards for his 23rd goal of the season in all competitions.

Scott Rendell-2_Goal Celebration_Paulton Rovers vs AFC Totton_SLD1S-22_Sat11Feb2023.jpg
POINTING THE WAY: Early bird Scott Rendell put The Stags ahead after just 47 seconds at bottom-of-the-table Slimbridge AFC at Thornhill Park in Gloucestershire.

Totton were soon in possession again, threatening to make it two goals in two minutes, when a high ball towards Rendell on the edge of the area led to a flurry of arms and legs between him, Tommy Wright and two Slimbridge defenders, before Taylor nipped across the scene and took the ball to the left of the penalty spot before blazing a fierce shot over the crossbar, when he could have picked his spot in the far corner of the goal.

Slimbridge forward William Hawes did well to chase down a lost cause and keep the ball in play at their left-wing touchline, a long way forward for his team. Several players got forward in support and the home side enjoyed a period of possession playing in front of the Totton defence which culminated in their top scorer Ethan Dunbar sending over a cross that drifted over the crossbar.

The game had started under bright sunshine but was soon replaced with wind and the first of a series of scattered showers, like a day that couldn’t decide what season it wanted to be in. Totton settled into their characteristic possession game, with Charlie Kennedy and Luke Hallett both seeing plenty of the ball unchallenged near the halfway line, with Mike Carter dropping from midfield to join in while they kept an eye out for an opportunity to go forward. But a misplaced pass in the 11th minute allowed The Swans to spread their wings and take flight down their left with Rudi Mckinnon, who checked inside to evade Benny Read and drove a low shot that while not particularly powerful, required Lewis Noice to stretch to get his left hand to it. The ball popped into the path of Ethan Dunbar coming in from beyond the right-hand post but Hallett slid into the space between him and the goal, forcing the striker to steer his effort into the side-netting.

As The Stags set-up for the goal kick, Captain Carter gave voice to his displeasure with the input of some of his teammates, demanding greater concentration and application. But it was the home side who would fashion the next chance. Neat play between Hawes and his skipper Myron Turner high up the left wing created room for the left-back Ben Prictor to get forward and join the attack. He passed it back to Hawes on the wing, whose first time pass infield set Turner up for a shot from the edge of the area that curled narrowly over the crossbar at the top-right corner.

Totton shook themselves into activity and only a diving header from the blonde-haired central defender Toby Lawrence prevented a purposeful pass from deep by Davis finding its way to Tommy Wright, who was already motoring into space in the inside-right channel. Slimbridge tried to counter but Benny Read quickly wrestled the ball back into fluo yellow possession.

The well-maintained Thornhill Park surface appeared to favour Totton’s usual style of passing football but, whether due to a lack of urgency or as a consequence of Slimbridge sitting deep and allowing little space in their own half of the pitch, The Stags struggled to get into their usual rhythm and to exploit their own many strengths.

Lawrence made another important intervention to knock the ball out of play as Read tried to raid down the right wing. Then, Ben Prictor made a strong block to swing a wrecking ball through a move that Josh Carmichael, Benny Read and Davis were constructing around the same area of the pitch.

Prictor tried to drive a high diagonal pass out to Dunbar on the Slimbridge right but Jack Masterton read the situation well to head back to Noice. Then, Carter hit a similar pass going the other way, picking out the head of Rendell who knocked it down to Taylor on the edge of the area. With defenders at his back, he laid the ball out to the touchline to prompt Masterton to centre into the box. Carmichael was in there to compete for the header, but his effort was blocked at source and when the ball dropped at the edge of the six-yard box, Jacob Geddes managed to clear a split-second before Davis could connect with his attempted shot, resulting in a free-kick to the home side.

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DEMANDING: Captain Mike Carter was a vocal presence in the Totton midfield in the Southern League Div.1 South encounter with The Swans at Thornhill Park.

Carmichael hit another cross-field pass to begin a move that involved a total of eight Totton outfield players, but Prictor showed The Stags what they could do with their tippy-tappy tiki-taka with an agricultural clearance from his own penalty area that made it all the way to the feet of Lewis Noice at the other end of the pitch.

Slimbridge right-back Levi Francis had to take a timeout while play continued to stem the bleeding from a nose injury, which also required him to change his shirt. And, as the weather continued to swing one way and then the other, Josh Carmichael sat himself down on the turf complaining of a problem with his leg muscle. When play resumed, James Sunley and Prictor got in each others way near the halfway line to give Totton a throw-in. They moved the ball from right to left quickly for Masterton to try and release Taylor down the wing, but Francis was alert and made a well-timed tackle to put the ball out of play on the far side from the main stand.

On 35 minutes, Rendell competed for a high delivery from deep, sending the ball upward. Tommy Wright got underneath it and tried his luck with a snapshot that went straight at Lewis Adams in The Swans’ goal. Then, at the other end, Masterton managed to smother an attempt from Dunbar, after a short period of Slimbridge possession had created a brief opening for the young forward on their right.

During a scrappy passage of play, Carter lumped the ball forward from halfway, sending Wright scampering after it at inside-right. Adams came out of his area to clear and then Wright, like Carmichael shortly before, sat down in need of treatment. With matches due to come thick and fast between now and the end of April, Jimmy Ball and Paul Masters decided not to take any risks with either player, and so there was the unusual sight of a team making a double substitution before the half-time break. Carmichael and Wright took their leave, while Adam Tomasso and Thursday night’s match-winner Matty Burrows came on for the last several minutes of the opening half.

Slimbridge were awarded a free-kick just past the halfway line for a push. Prictor sent it high to the far side of the box where Myron Turner headed back into the danger zone, but Noice caught it confidently. When the ball came forward for Totton, headers from Carter and then Rendell almost put Burrows away behind the defence, Lawrence stepping across to nullify the threat and clear.

Kennedy was quick to atone for misplaced pass in midfield, snapping back at the intercepting opponent to reclaim the ball and start moving it around among the yellow shirts, again. Then, as Carter struggled to get a bouncing ball under control with a player breathing down his neck, Tomasso had to drop back on the cover to make a well-timed interception on the edge of his own penalty area, with Dunbar ready to sprint clear behind him.

But, a slightly disjointed Totton conceded a corner on their left. Hallett got up well to head firmly clear. Davis flicked the ball on Taylor, who in turn threaded the ball into the path of Burrows, down the left wing. Again, though, Levi Francis stuck to his task and put the ball out of play at the touchline. Slimbridge managed to encroach on Totton territory again soon after, but Hallett dealt with it for The Stags.

Totton almost doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time. Masterton and Rendell combined to lay the ball back to Charlie Davis, who picked out Taylor’s run down the left. He shrugged off his marker on his way to the left-wing byline, where he got his head up and presented the in-rushing Adam Tomasso with the chance to score. His shot had Lewis Adams beaten but Ben Prictor had come in from his left-back berth to clear off the goal line.

The Stags made one last stampede down the left-hand side before half-time whistle, Jack Masterton latching onto a Davis pass to get into the inside-left channel, and then he opted to hit a cross - which eluded Tommy Wright - when he might have gone for goal himself.

SLIMBRIDGE AFC                                   0
AFC TOTTON                                             1

Slimbridge got the second half underway but soon found themselves under pressure from a Mike Carter diagonal that Turner inadvertently headed towards Scott Rendell in the middle, who managed to prod the ball to Taylor, but he was closed down before he could get his shot away. Taylor was then brought down shortly outside the left corner of the penalty area, as he pulled the ball down from Masterton’s high pass. Davis crossed towards the penalty spot but Sunley headed firmly away.

Luke Hallett tried to shepherd the ball out of play at Totton’s right-wing byline but Hawes slid in to kick the ball against him and earn his side an unexpected corner. The right-footed delivery curled the ball into the near post area but Hallett, being extra vigilant having given the ball away, thumped the ball clear with his forehead.

Lawrence got in quickly to prevent Taylor escaping towards goal from Hallett’s long diagonal. Then, Rendell and Burrows were left pressing Slimbridge defenders near the halfway line to prevent The Swans coming forward. When the ball went of play, the experienced Rendell remonstrated with his younger teammate for a perceived lack of application in the press, to which the winger responded by getting back on the ball and running at the Slimbridge defence, requiring a well-executed challenge to stop him running through on goal.

Adam Tomasso_AFC Totton_away kit.jpg
FIRST-HALF SUBSTITUTE: Adam Tomasso came on to replace Josh Carmichael in midfield.

Totton were awarded a free-kick for hand-ball in midfield. Hallett hit another long ball that Rendell knocked on for Burrows in the inside-left channel. He went for goal but two defenders threw themselves into the ball’s path before it was kicked away. But just as The Stags were beginning to play with greater urgency, a moment of uncharacteristic poor control had Ethan Taylor racing back to try and retrieve the ball and committing a foul that earned him a yellow card. Slimbridge’s James Sunley followed him into the Referee’s notebook shortly after for a foul on Burrows, who had run onto Masterton’s sweeping ball up the left wing.

Despite being a goal behind, Slimbridge were happy to continue sitting off the Totton defenders and midfielders when they were just passing the ball back and forth amongst themselves and, already being one goal to the good, The Stags lacked any visible desire to press the issue and take risks in their opponents’ half. Eventually, Rendell and Burrows worked an opening for Taylor on the right of The Swans’ penalty area. There was an appeal for hand-ball against Prictor but the home side might just have easily have claimed the same agains Taylor. The Referee decided to let play continue and Slimbridge removed the danger.

Rendell fouled Sunley in midfield and a quickly taken free-kick enabled Slimbridge to work the ball to the edge of the area, where William Hawes took aim, sending the ball narrowly over the crossbar. The home side were looking to probe down their left wing and kept the ball for a while, but when they did finally get crosses in, Kennedy and Noice dealt with them comfortably.

Striker Edjidja Mbunga, who scored two goals for Slimbridge against Totton last season, was introduced from the bench in the 69th minute, in place of Hawes. The sub was the target for a diagonal free-kick delivery from the left wing, but Hallett took care of it.

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RUN 'EM RAGGUETTE: Now free from both injury and suspension, Jordan Ragguette made a second-half cameo during The Stags 1-0 win at Slimbridge.

Totton had plenty of possession but in their unwillingness to take risks, some potentially promising runs from Taylor and Burrows were being ignored in favour of retaining the ball. The two wingers swapped wings, perhaps just to relieve their own boredom with a change of perspective on proceedings.

Slimbridge managed to isolate Mbunga up against Masterton, but the Totton left-back won the tussle and emerged with the ball at his feet. It was worked forward quickly and Taylor was played into space on the left wing - his first-time cross faded over the bar with Rendell arriving at pace, anticipating a low pass to the far post.

Jordan Ragguette came on in place of Masterton in the 74th minute. Ragguette’s eagerness to get forward from the left-back position suggested he’d been given specific instructions to do so from the management team, but his first foray fell foul of an offside flag.

Rudi Mckinnon got above Rendell to head the ball out for Slimbridge. Burrows picked it up in the middle of the park and was soon dribbling at speed, until Lawrence stepped in to make a solid challenge and take the ball away.

Ragguette intercepted a loose pass and fed Rendell on the halfway line. The forward was bundled over from behind but The Referee allowed play to continue. Totton were momentarily stretched until Carter put his foot on the ball and found Burrows with a high diagonal, that the youngster showed impressive skill to quickly get under control before facing up to two blue shirts between him and the goal. After turning the first man inside out, Burrows saw his low cross-shot blocked for a corner. Davis and Read took it short, before Davis played a low pass into the box for Charlie Kennedy about nine yards out. His first-time shot was parried by Lewis Adams at his bottom-left corner, allowing Geddes to hack the ball out of the box.

A slip by Tomasso on the wet surface gave Dunbar space to roam into the Totton half. Carter’s tackle forced the ball wide and when the cross came in from the Slimbridge left, it eluded everyone and dropped wide of the far post.

Ethan Taylor-2_Paulton Rovers vs AFC Totton_SLD1S-22_Sat11Feb2023.jpg
SEEING YELLOW: Ethan Taylor's name was taken by the Referee for a rash challenge.

Carter again remonstrated with his team in an attempt to raise the level of the performance. Read won the ball on the Totton right and started a move that culminated in the best piece of football all afternoon, a short one-two between Taylor and Rendell that put Taylor in behind two defenders, only to be flagged offside before dragging his shot wide to the right, anyway.

A free-kick on the right-hand side for a push on Benny Read gave Davis the opportunity to deliver some quality into the box. He found Scott Rendell’s head, once more, but the centre-forward couldn’t keep the ball down, heading over the bar from the edge of the Slimbridge area. Then, when Burrows was pulled back to provide another free-kick in a similar position, Taylor’s high in-swinging delivery was well taken by Lewis Adams.

A swift combination between Taylor and Burrows on the right-hand side, just before the 90-minute mark, had Burrows firing a low cross towards the near post where Rendell closed in but couldn’t make contact. The ball ran across goal to a Slimbridge defender. When Totton regained possession in midfield and worked it forward again on their right flank, Burrows took it towards the corner flag to run down the clock. The board went up to indicate three minutes of stoppage time, which the Totton players took as a prompt to follow Burrows’ lead by taking the ball to the corner whenever they could do eat up more seconds.

Slimbridge managed to wrestle the ball away on one final occasion, but Hallett was back to head away when the ball came into the Totton box. Burrows and Ragguette might have had one last chance to extend Totton’s lead at the death, until a misunderstanding between them had Burrows dropping short while Ragguette hit the ball long - at which point the Referee put an end to everyone’s misery with the final whistle.

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After the match, AFC Totton Manager Jimmy Ball (pictured, above-right with Assistant Manager Paul Masters), said:

“Slimbridge were fighting for their lives out there today. Our performance wasn’t exceptional but we managed to get the job done. I though we were in control for most of it but it’s not an easy place to come and we just had to do what we had to do today. You can’t expect to win every game by five, six or seven goals every week. Sometimes, you have to grind out a result, even against teams from the bottom of the table.

“Our recent defensive record is very good, so credit to the defence. But it’s also the work being done in front of them to limit the number of opportunities that opposition teams are able to create. The lads are working hard for each other and while the performance today, and on Thursday night, to be fair, lacked a bit of zip and energy and was a little bit flat, they have stuck together and worked hard to get the result in the end, so I’m pleased.”

Southern League Div.1 South | Matchday 29 | Oakfields Stadium
Tuesday 21 March 2023 | Kick-Off 7:45pm

Latest Southern League Div.1 South league table

View AFC Totton’s fixture list for the 2022/23 season

By Ben Rochey-Adams

Images courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography

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