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Saturday 09 March 2024 | Ian Moorcroft Stadium, Ladysmead, Tiverton | Att: 248


TIVERTON TOWN                        1
Alex Fletcher 5mins

AFC TOTTON                                  2
Tony Lee 37mins; Joe Oastler 59mins

AFC TOTTON TRIUMPHED against the elements as much as their opponents to take all three points from a tough, muddy encounter with Tiverton Town at the Ian Moorcroft Stadium in Devon on Saturday (09 March 2024).

Sterling work from groundstaff and volunteers saw the Ladysmead pitch pass a Referee’s inspection for the first time in 42 days. Totton took to the field with debutant former Salisbury shot-stopper Joshua Gould in goal. Injuries kept Luke Hallett and Leon Maloney out of the matchday squad, so Joe Oastler and Sam Magri partnered each other in central defence. Ben Jefford came in at left-back in place of Jordan Ragguette, who dropped to the bench. Matty Burrows was recalled from his recent loan at Southern League Division One title-chasing Wimborne Town, and he went straight into the starting line-up in place of Joan Luque Prados, who is suffering from flu.

AFC-Totton-badge.pngAFC TOTTON
Starting XI

13.  Joshua GOULD
2.  Benny READ
7.  Joseph OASTLER
15.  Sam MAGRI
14.  Ben JEFFORD
5.  Charlie KENNEDY
8.  Adam TOMASSO
11.  Matty BURROWS
9.  Scott RENDELL (Capt.)
18.  Tony LEE
10.  Ethan TAYLOR
1.  Lewis NOICE
3.  Jordan RAGGUETTE
4.  Owen PELHAM
16.  Luke BENNETT
19.  Zidan AKERS

The home side kicked-off, wearing all-yellow with black trim, while Totton were decked out in their own usual home kit of all-blue with white trim. Having narrowly passed the Referee’s pre-match inspection, the pitch was soft with a bobbly surface that was hardly conducive to playing attractive football, and both sides struggled to get to grips with it early-on, particularly in terms of judging the bounce or how hard they needed to kick the ball to make it go where they wanted it to go.

Tiverton forward Joe Parker was the first to threaten, pulling Sam Magri out of his central defensive berth to close him down at the byline. Parker managed to evade him, though, by checking on to his left foot and sending a cross to behind the penalty spot where the home side’s top scorer Jack Rice-Lethaby met it with a header that looped into the arms of Josh Gould for his first touch in the AFC Totton goalkeeper’s jersey.

From Gould’s distribution upfield, Matty Burrows was able to drift in from the right flank to line up a shooting chance, but as he took aim with his left foot, his right slipped out from under him on the soft surface and Tiverton were able to scramble the ball clear.

Tiverton were finding some joy down their right flank, with former Plymouth Argyle midfielder River Allen getting into a crossing position. Scott Rendell had followed the move back and managed to get a crucial touch to prevent Alex Fletcher shooting from the edge of the penalty area, and Benny Read was able to complete the clearance.

It was Allen who created the opening goal for the home side after just five minutes. His raid down the right flank was halted by Joe Oastler, who got the ball stuck under his body close to the byline. Allen managed to carve space for a cross which fell to the feet of Alex FLETCHER; he controlled the ball left of the penalty spot and fired a left-footed shot across Gould, into the bottom-right corner.

With the ball hardly bouncing at all on the soft surface, Totton were struggling to get to grips with the game. A poor kick by Gould presented the ball to Rice-Lethaby to run back at the Totton goal. Burrows tracked back and collided with his opponent to concede a free-kick just off the left corner of the penalty area. It was driven towards the near post corner, but Gould was alive to it and claimed for Totton.

Full-back Niall Thompson benefitted from a deflection off Ethan Taylor to get away down the right wing, but his cross veered high and wide, before Totton conducted a short inquest into how much room the home side were getting on that side. Thompson then demonstrated his defensive prowess by nipping in to deny Taylor from Adam Tomasso’s lofted pass from close to the centre-circle.

During a stoppage in play while Tiverton defender Matthew Britton received treatment, Jimmy Ball managed to pass a slip of paper to his captain, Scott Rendell, instructing a few tactical changes. Burrows and Tony Lee managed to work the ball forward through the middle, but when it was diverted out to the right flank, Read conceded a free-kick.

Charlie Kennedy played the ball forward on the left, where Lee flicked on for Taylor on the wing. His cross found Burrows, whose first time shot brought a smart save out of goalkeeper Zak Baker. On Totton’s next attack, Ben Jefford joined Taylor in a swift one-two that resulted in a corner kick. Taylor’s cross was headed wide of the near post by the giant former Larkhall Athletic defender Joshua Jones. From the subsequent corner, Taylor found Magri in the box but the ball was whisked off his toe before he could get a shot away. Tiverton broke on the counter-attack, with Fletcher beating Jefford to the ball near half-way and setting off on a solo run towards the Totton goal. Read scampered across from his right-back berth and managed to put Fletcher off enough to encourage the former Bath City striker to fire over the top with only Gould to beat.

Alefe Santos D’Abadia, who played for Hartley Wintney against AFC Totton in the Servio Hampshire Senior Cup earlier this season, combined with Thompson to progress down the right wing, the latter winning a corner off Taylor. D’Abadia took it and Kennedy headed out. Tiverton send the ball in again and Lee lumped it over the stand on the far side of the ground, as Totton continued to suffer from the conditions underfoot.

Matthew Britton was shown the yellow card for pulling down Burrows, when the young winger had spun past him to create a chance to run into the Tiverton half on the counter-attack. Then, another poor kick from Gould put Totton under unnecessary pressure, which was relieved when Magri was fouled by a yellow-and-black clad opponent.

Rendell flicked on from Jefford’s left-wing throw to present Tomasso with a shooting chance from the edge of the area, but the midfielder missed his kick and the chance was lost. Then, a foul on Lee gave Totton a free-kick with shooting range, about 22 yards out to the right of the D. Taylor went for goal with a low shot that deflected off the knee of a Tiverton player in the defensive wall, which sent the ball looping out for a corner, which Totton failed to capitalise upon.

A free-kick given for offside mid-way inside Totton’s half was pumped forward by Gould. Lee headed down within the penalty area and Burrows managed to dig the ball out for the shot, which Baker saved low to his left. Then, Magri broke up a left-wing attack, only to put Gould under pressure on his weaker foot, leading to a Tiverton corner. It was taken short and Rice-Lethaby drove a fierce effort towards the near bottom corner of the Totton goal, but it was blocked and cleared by The Stags’ defence.

On such an unstable playing surface, both teams demonstrated a preference for sending the ball long. Accuracy of passing was not the order of the day, though, and Thompson and Kennedy traded poor clearances directly to one another. Gould continued to have difficulties kicking from the ground, allowing Fletcher to charge down before Gould was able to remover enough to clear into touch. Fletcher then had his own problems trying to wade across the heavy surface, the ball getting stuck in the mud under his feet, just as he was trying to work himself into a shooting position around the edge of the box.

Taylor and Burrows team up to win a left-wing corner for Totton. Tiverton initially cleared the ball, but when Totton regained the ball, Burrows received a pass in the centre-circle and spotted Lee ready to make a run through the centre. Burrows’ pass enabled Tony LEE to use his strength to roll his marker and run clean through, drawing Baker to rush out before he fired low into the centre of the goal to level the scores with his fourth goal in four games since rejoining AFC Totton.

River Allen was called up for some rough-housing on Taylor, resulting in a Totton free-kick on the left, just inside the Tiverton half. Magri lofted the ball high to the far side of the penalty area. A knock down fell for Rendell, whose shot was blocked. The rebound came out to Read on the right-hand side, and from his cross, Kennedy tried to put Taylor in on the left but Tiverton broke away on the counter, and Ben Jefford took down Britton to earn himself a yellow card.

Jefford was back to head away D’Abadia’s right-wing corner. Allen intercepted and tried to feed Britton, but Read took control of the situation and cleared for Totton. The home side then had a penalty appeal flatly ignored by the Referee, when Jack Rice-Lethaby went down in the box claiming to have been pulled down by Kennedy.

With the home dug-out taking it upon themselves to play selective multi-ball when it benefitted their team to get a replacement ball back on to the pitch quickly, the temperature of the game began to increase - if only among the respective management teams and the two sets of club officials. Jefford conceded another corner, which D’Abadia delivered to the far post. Parker nodded the ball down to the edge of the area, where Rice-Lethaby went for precision over power, curling a shot narrowly wide of the top-right corner.

Joshua Jones put the ball out of the ground to prevent Burrows racing in behind him. Then, a Tiverton clearance was intercepted by Tomasso, who played Lee in at the right corner of the six-yard box, the striker showing neat control and a sharp turn to create space for an angle shot that flashed narrowly past the far post, shortly before the Referee’s whistle brought a scrappy first half to an end.

TIVERTON TOWN                            1
AFC TOTTON                                       1

The Stags got the match back underway but it was Tiverton who mounted the first serious attack of the second half, when Dylan Jones got down the left wing to supply a low cross that was diverted behind for a corner by Kennedy. The ball was directed to the edge of the area, where Allen’s shot was blocked at source by Read. Oastler then had to turn away Rice-Lethaby’s cross, before Magri forced a goal-kick off Thompson.

Burrows dropped back to help Read defend Totton’s right. The winger intercepted a Tiverton pass and immediately set Tony Lee through on the home team’s goal with a high ball pinged into the inside-right channel. Lee ran on to the ball and briefly had the chance to chip Baker, who was back-peddling in his area. Lee decided to drive on a little further and go for a powerful finish, but he struck his effort over the crossbar.

Totton appeared to finally getting to grips with the condition and how to circumnavigate them. Taylor. Lee and Rendell combined to work the ball through the middle of the pitch and out to the left flank, before Tiverton managed to get enough players in the way to halt their progress. Then, Burrows had a shot charged down, the ball falling to Lee who played Taylor in to stride into the inside-left channel and fire wide of the near post.

Thompson had his work out trying to contain Taylor, who ran on to another pass from Lee, took on the full-back and stood up a cross from the byline that hit defender Jamie Richards before rebounding against Lee’s head and out for a goal-kick. When the two Totton players combined again, Taylor appeared to be tripped close to the left-wing byline, but the Referee waved his appeals away and gave a goal-kick.

The ball was spending a lot of time in the air, with neither side to exert much in the way of control over the game. But Totton’s improved performance in the second half was rewarded when they took the lead shortly before the hour mark. Once again, it was Tony Lee and Ethan Taylor combining down the left who forced the Tiverton defence back, with Taylor’s cross being knocked behind for a right-wing corner. Burrows sent a cross to the far post where Joe OASTLER held off his marker long enough for the ball to strike him on the chest and bounce over the line for his second AFC Totton goal since joining the club earlier this season.

Tenacious defending by Read held Tiverton’s attack up, at the expense of a free-kick. Tiverton soon converted that for a corner, but Totton defended it well. When Tiverton came forward again, the unpredictable bounce of the soft surface worked to Magri’s advantage by wrong-footing Fletcher with space to exploit behind the big defender. Burrows managed to find a pocket of space from the resulting clearance, but fired his effort wide.

With fresh rain coming down to further exacerbate the poor conditions, a clumsy challenge by Magri gave Tiverton a free-kick on the right corner of the Totton box. Jefford headed the cross away and Oastler got out to bravely block the follow-up shot from the D. Then, Zak Baker had a stroke of good fortune when his kicked clearance struck Matty Burrows but rebounded out towards the flank rather than into the gaping goal behind him.

Joe Parker floated a cross over Jefford to the feet of Fletcher, but Jefford did well to recover his footing and dispossess the striker. When the ball came to the left-back Dylan Jones, Burrows tried hard to close his opponent down but looked worn out. Fletcher managed to get forward down the Tiverton left, before cutting inside to shoot, but he scuffed the ball and a foul on Burrows while the home side tried to recover the ball was the prompt for a flurry of substitutions which included Burrows and Taylor both making way for the fresh legs of Luke Bennett and Zidan Akers.

Kennedy hooked away a cross shot, then Read and Oastler both got their bodies in the way to prevent Tiverton substitute Marcio Magalhaes Neves finding his way to goal. Akers got into the game by retrieving the ball from a long clearance up the left flank. He passed back to Tomasso, who fed further infield to Lee, the striker attempting a shot on the turn which was shut down at source.

Baker’s long ball down the centre of the pitch almost put Parker through on goal, but Gould read the situation and was quickly out of his area to kick clear. Then, Rendell used his strength to turn his marker and play Akers into the inside-left. The defender did enough to put him off his shot, even as Baker appeared to slip, and the ball flew high and wide of the target.

Read intercepted Richards’ pass and fed the ball forward for Totton. Rendell knocked it down, allowing Luke Bennett to control on his chest and skip around a challenge before his pass towards the left flank wrong-footed Akers. Read then had to be alert to divert a Neves cross wide for a corner. Magri made two blocks to prevent the set-piece being converted, shortly before another strong block from Oastler served to deny the home side another shooting opportunity.

Akers was posing a different sort of problem for the tiring Tiverton Town defence, the winger using his athletic frame to good effect whenever the ball came forward for The Stags. Rendell neatly controlled Tomasso’s up-and-under clearance and spread the play wide to Read. Tomasso joined in again, but his return pass to Read was too strong and rolled out of play for a goal-kick.

A foul in front of the Tiverton dug-out gave Baker the chance to launch the ball forward. Oastler headed out the first delivery and when Richards returned it into the box, the huge frame of Joshua Gould plucked the ball out of the air with consummate ease.

A move involving Akers, Tomasso, Read and Rendell forced the Tiverton defence back, but Rendell got the ball stuck under his foot just when he wanted to pull the trigger. Then, Lee’s pass enabled Rendell to attack the right-wing byline and from his pull-back, Tomasso had a shot saved by Baker, diving towards his left-hand post.

Akers skipped around Dylan Jones and evaded the recovering Carlo Garside, who had come on during the second half, to take the ball towards the corner quadrant and start running down the clock. Oastler and Lee also joined in the keep-ball session, and although Tiverton did eventually managed to get the ball forward again, the Referee blew the final whistle shortly after to bring an end to an arduous game of Southern League football.

Watch Jimmy Ball's Post-Match Interview

Watch Tony Lee's Post-Match Interview

Latest Southern League Premier Division South table​​​​​​​

AFC Totton Fixtures 2023/24

Servio Hampshire Senior Cup | Semi-Final | Snows Stadium, Salisbury Road, Totton SO40 2RW | Monday 11 March 2024 | Kick-Off at 7:45pm

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