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MATCHDAY 19 - Saturday 28 January 2023

WESTBURY UNITED                       1
Stephen Hulbert 78mins (pen)

AFC TOTTON                                       2
Scott Rendell 15mins, 60mins (pen)

CENTRE-FORWARD SCOTT RENDELL bagged a brace to lead AFC Totton to a welcome away win at Westbury United yesterday (Saturday). The former Luton Town and Eastleigh forward put The Stags ahead on 15 minutes with a tap-in and then extended his team’s lead with a the first of three penalties in the Southern League Div.1 South match at the Meadow Lane ground in Wiltshire.

Having come extremely close to levelling the scores at 1-1 from a Matthew Morris free-kick, Westbury rallied late on after Stephen Hulbert halved the deficit from the penalty spot to set up a competitive last 15 minutes. But The Stags held on to claim all three points, despite Rendell spurning the chance to complete his hat-trick by striking a late second Totton spot-kick against the woodwork, to close the gap on league leaders Sholing who dropped two points at Lymington Town.

Manager Jimmy Ball made just one change to the team that started at Bideford last weekend, with forward Silvano Obeng dropping to the bench to make way for combative midfielder Adam Tomasso. Conor Whiteley was named on the bench, having completed a three-game suspension for his red card at Bishop’s Cleeve almost two months ago, with several fixtures having been postponed due to bad weather in the interim. The Stags’ Kit Manager Harry Brookwell accommodated Obeng’s preference for the No.19 shirt over the No.18. Attacking midfielder Jake Adams signed a dual registration deal with runaway Wessex League Premier Division leaders AFC Portchester in midweek, so he was unavailable for selection.

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

1.  Charlie SEARLE
2.  Benny READ
4.  Mike CARTER (Capt.)
5.  Charlie KENNEDY
6.  Luke HALLETT
8.  Adam TOMASSO
9.  Scott RENDELL
10.  Ethan TAYLOR
11.  Tommy WRIGHT
14.  Conor WHITELEY
15.  Jordan RAGGUETTE
16.  Freddie READ
17.  Charlie DAVIS
19.  Silvano OBENG

Tommy Wright took the kick-off on behalf of AFC Totton, clad in their usual home kit of all blue and white, while the home side wore all dark green. Westbury had more of the ball in the early exchanges, long balls into the Totton box forcing Luke Hallett and Charlie Kennedy to both head clear under pressure as The White Horse Men tried to find their centre-forward Gary Higdon for flick-ons and knock-downs.

One such move resulted in his strike partner Harvey Flippance being pulled down in a central position, just outside the Totton area. Matthew Morris took aim from the free-kick, his effort deflecting off the defensive wall and the follow-up shot from inside the box going straight at Charlie Searle in The Stags’ goal.

Totton took some time to settle; Kennedy was dispossessed as he tried to bring the ball out of defence but Scott Rendell was quick to intervene to prevent Westbury building anything of their own. Then, a foul on Ethan Taylor gave Jack Masterton the opportunity to line-up a 25-yard free-kick from left of centre. The midfielder went for goal but struck the ball into the face of one of the Westbury players in the wall, prompting the Referee to stop the game so he could receive treatment.

By 10 minutes into the game, Totton were starting to get the ball down and play with captain Mike Carter and Masterton taking it in turns to drop between the central defenders to help recycle possession from left to right, while looking for an opening to exploit further upfield. Westbury were content to sit back and allow The Stags to dominate possession.

In the 14th minute, Hallett had time to look up and clip the ball into the inside-right channel from the half-way line. Ethan Taylor darted in behind his marker, advanced into the Westbury box and aimed a low shot towards the far corner. Goalkeeper Jonathan Hill got his right hand to it but could only parry the ball to the feet of the unmarked Scott RENDELL, who didn’t need a second invitation to notch his first goal of 2023.

Westbury’s giant left-back Ryan Bole, who scored a hat-trick at Wimborne Town three weeks ago, carried the fight forward for his team with a left-wing raid, until the much shorter figure of Adam Tomasso put a stop to his progress, before then engaging with an on-the-ball then off-the-ball tussle with his opposite No.8, Joseph Stradling in midfield, for which he won a free-kick and a talking to by the Referee.

Jack Masterton-2_AFCTotton vs Basingstoke Town_Pre-Season-7_30July2022.jpg
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jack Masterton won plaudits from home and away fans alike for his poise and control in midfield, during what was often an up-and-under encounter at Meadow Lane.

A swift Westbury move, shifting infield from the right wing, presented Morris with the chance to take aim from distance, from which he curled a right-footed effort into the arms of Searle. Then, Aaron Cockerill was given a warning for a foul on Tomasso close to the corner flag at the attacking end of Totton’s right wing, although the visitors were unable to take advantage.

It was a competitive match in terms of players from both sides giving each other little time on the ball, except when Totton’s defenders passed it among themselves, but there was little quality on show from either side during the middle portion of the first half with one long ball after the other leading to plenty of aerial challenges and the occasional foul going to either side.

Tommy Wright won a corner on the right-hand side on 30 minutes. Masterton played it short to Taylor on the edge of the area, and he managed to get the ball onto his left foot to drive in a low shot that bounced back to him off a defender. But despite exchanging passes with Benny Read, he was unable to work the ball back into the crowded penalty area before it was cleared upfield by a green shirt.

Right-back Stephen Hulbert was lucky not to go into the Referee’s notebook for taking Masterton’s ankles near the centre-circle. Then, the Westbury captain Daniel Price was left on the deck after a collision with Rendell, as the flow of the game continued to stutter with the home fans taking umbrage whenever a Totton player stepped out of line.

Rendell took to the left flank to head on Hallett’s cross-field pass, freeing Wright to attack the byline. Westbury half-cleared his low cross but Benny Read intercepted and drove into the inside-right, tempting Cockerill to trip him up 22 yards out, to earn himself a yellow card. Masterton floated the ball into the box for Rendell to head at goal. Hill parried high into the air; the spring-heeled Hallett jumped higher than the cluster of players around him but Hill reacted sharply to tip the defender’s header over the crossbar for a corner, which Westbury headed away.

Five minutes before the break, Taylor won a free-kick near the left-wing touchline. Again, Hallett posed a threat from Masterton’s delivery but he didn’t get a firm contact and the ball fell to Wright at the far post, whose shot was blocked by Cockerill.

The last chance of the first half also fell to Tommy Wright, who showed neat control to pull a high pass out of the sky about 25 yards out, in the inside-left channel. With defenders standing off him, Wright strode forward a couple of strides and let fly with his right foot, but his effort was too high.

WESTBURY UNITED                        0
AFC TOTTON                                         1

Westbury got the second half underway and, within three minutes of the restart, they came within a whisker of levelling the scores. Luke Hallett was penalised for nudging Gary Higdon in the back as they competed for a high ball, resulting in a free-kick 25 yards from goal, just left of centre. Matthew Morris struck a firm effort that left Charlie Searle rooted to his goal-line, where he could only watch as the ball smacked the underside of the crossbar and bounced on the line and away from him; the follow-up header was straight into his grateful arms.

Buoyed by coming so close to a goal, Westbury came forward again with Flippance receiving possession from a right-wing throw-in and then driving infield to set himself up for a shot, only for Hallett to throw himself in front of the ball, deflecting it into a loop that made it easier for Searle to pluck out of the air.

Masterton combined with Ben Jefford to attack down the left flank but Westbury withstood it and launched a counter-attack. Stradling ran the ball a long way from deep inside his own half, evading Carter’s attempt to come across and stop him. He laid a pass infield to Ashton Stanley but Hallett went in strong to reclaim the ball for The Stags.

Kennedy intercepted a pass midway inside his own half in the 54th minute, and found Taylor on the halfway line, near the left-wing touchline. With one defender between him and the Westbury goal, he knocked the ball past and skipped around his opponent before descending upon the penalty area, with two defenders giving chase. He appeared to aim for the top corner just inside the near post but his shot, perhaps a little rushed with a defender coming in from his right, veered high and wide, and into the high netting behind the goal.

Totton were still enjoying the lion’s share of possession but Westbury stood firm. Rendell had to work hard to prevent them playing out from the back when one attack broke down, but he did enough to have them settle for a throw-in deep in their own half when they were trying to launch another counter.

Wright’s eagerness to chase lost causes earned his side a corner from the right-hand side close to the hour mark, but Masterton’s cross was headed out. Tomasso picked the ball up and drove into the penalty area where defenders came in from either side in a pincer movement, sending the midfielder crashing to the ground. The Referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Scott RENDELL stepped up confidently to notch his 18th goal of the season.

Scott Rendell-4_Penalty_AFC Totton vs Slimbridge AFC_SLD1S-06_Sat15Oct2022.jpg
THE SUNBURNT ASSASSIN STRIKES AGAIN: Scott Rendell's second goal of the game at Westbury United was his 18th in all competitions for The Stags this season.

All things considered, Totton had been the better side but were perhaps fortunate to be two goals ahead. Ben Jefford did his part to prevent the home side hitting straight back by tumbling into the back of his man near the halfway line. Then, Carter had to make a strong block to prevent calamity after Wright and Masterton got in each others way in midfield.

Morris temporarily got free on the Westbury right, until Tomasso’s determination to defend shut the door in his face. Then, a misplaced pass by Kennedy in front of the home team’s dug-out enabled Westbury to win a corner on their right. Ryan Bole is too big and tall to be taking set-pieces, but take it he did and his delivery was good, with the ball dropping near the far post. But there were too many bodies in the way for The White Horse Men to capitalise, and Tomasso punted clear.

Jack Masterton was booked on 64 minutes for a foul on Jacob Hutchings. The free-kick from the Westbury left was a fraction too high for Higdon to head on, the ball running out for a goal-kick. Then, there were half-hearted claims of hand-ball against the Totton keeper when he rushed out of goal to intercept a long ball by controlling the bounce with his stomach, with Kennedy in attendance.

Carter was totting up the fouls, and he conceded a free-kick for a challenge on Higdon 30 yards from goal, which sparked a verbal back-and-forth between the two. Ryan Bole went for goal but his shot was too high.

Westbury’s Player/Manager Ricky Hulbert had seen enough by that point and decided to shake things up by making all three of his available substitutions in one swipe, in the 68th minute. He sent on Emmanuel Adepitan, Samuel Jordan and himself in place of Aaron Cockerill, Harvey Flippance and Matthew Morris. Jimmy Ball responded by withdrawing the already-booked Ben Jefford in favour of Jordan Ragguette.

Totton defended a free-kick and Tomasso whipped the ball up the right-wing touchline for Rendell to chase. He got to the ball near the corner and sent a cross to the far side, but Taylor couldn’t get to it in time. Then, Ragguette’s first involvement was to beat the Player/Manager to a high ball down the Westbury right to touch the ball back to safety with Searle.

Hutchings did well to prevent Tommy Wright’s cross from the right finding Taylor lurking near the back post. Then, again, the ball spent a prolonged spell flying high through the air as both teams seem to feel their chances of winning were better served by conducting an aerial attack.

Benny Read and Adam Tomasso teamed up to dismantle a Westbury attack that swept from right to left. Then, to the joy of several home fans, Carter was booked for what the Referee indicated was persistent fouling. Shanley took the free-kick and Price nodded it down to the edge of the area but Ricky Hulbert’s shot was straight at Searle.

Higdon managed to give Ragguette the slip near the halfway line but Carter, careful to stay on his feet having just been booked, got back in time to deflect the ball wide for a corner. Ryan Bole curled it towards the near post where Ragguette could only glance the ball over the ruck of players in the middle to drop at the back stick. Higdon got the ball down on the edge of the six-yard box and, as Kennedy made a desperate lunging tackle, the forward shifted the ball to the left and Kennedy took his legs out from under him. The Referee was well-placed, again, and gave the penalty. Stephen HULBERT took it, smashing the ball low to Charlie Searle’s left to throw his team a lifeline with 12 minutes left on the clock.

Conor Whiteley-3_AFC Totton vs Westbury United-SLD1S-10_Sat12Nov2022.jpg
BACK IN THE FOLD: Conor Whiteley stepped off the bench to make his return to the AFC Totton side, after three games out with suspension.

Before the restart, Jimmy Ball sent on Conor Whiteley in place of Tommy Wright. Westbury continued their spirited fightback but were undone by a push in Hallett’s back, as he tried to clear. The home side stepped up the pace, again, and both Hallett and Ragguette had to maintain their defensive concentration to keep the green wave at bay.

A free-kick prompted a scramble on the each of the Totton penalty area, which the Referee interrupted when Stephen Hulbert went down with a head injury. Play restarted with an uncontested drop ball 25 yards from Totton’s goal, The Stags resolutely holding their defensive line and repelling the ball upfield. Westbury’s next attack came to an abrupt end when hand-ball was given against Higdon.

Bole’s cross-field pass from the left-back position in the 83rd minute was well controlled by Higdon, who evaded Ragguette by taking the ball infield before checking back onto his right foot and curling a speculative effort from 25 yards, which looped narrowly over the crossbar and sat on top of the net at the top-right corner. Westbury were looking the more likely to score going into the last five minutes.

Jack Masterton came off to be replace by Charlie Davis. Ragguette got forward down the left and worked the ball infield to Whiteley, who in turn played a square pass into the path of Tomasso. Just as the midfielder was winding up to shoot, Bole slid in to make a strong blocking tackle, Totton reacting quickly in midfield to prevent a counter-attack.

Totton began to play keep ball, playing short passes near the right touchline, half-way inside the Westbury half. When the home side did manage to nick the ball and try to counter, Hallett was standing in their way and returned the ball to Benny Read, who resumed the possessional play.

On the stroke of 90 minutes, Jordan Ragguette attacked down the left wing and fired a low centre into the box. Whiteley controlled the ball but was immediately tripped from behind by Stephen Hulbert, prompting the Referee to award the game’s third penalty kick. Scott Rendell stepped up again, keen to complete his hat-trick, but his shot bounced back of the right-hand post. Totton regathered possession but Read’s cross from the right sailed over the bar.

Westbury’s fans tried to lift their side to rally for a late equaliser. Whiteley dropped into midfield to help stem the green tide. Higdon went in late on Carter, Stradling then earning a booking for dissent for his critique of the Referee’s decision-making skills.

By the time four minutes of stoppage time were indicated, the teams had already played three minutes and 45 seconds  of it, a point that AFC Totton’s Assistant Manager Paul Masters made clear to the Referee.

Tomasso found time to throw himself in the way of another Westbury effort from the edge of the box. It came out to Shanley, who crossed it back in but Ragguette was able to whack clear. Then, Hutchings had his name taken for shoving Rendell and, for complaining about the decision, a yellow card was also waved in front of the Westbury bench, although it wasn’t abundantly clear whose name the Referee had taken.

The final whistle followed shortly after to confirm a win for The Stags. While they were walking off the pitch, most of the players didn’t notice the Referee showing the red card to Westbury’s Assistant Manager Lewis Porter. Then, when they got back into the changing room, they learned that Sholing had been held to a draw by Lymington Town, which closes the gap at the top of the table by another two points.

Southern League Div.1 South | Matchday 20 | Snows Stadium
Saturday 04 February 2023 | Kick-Off 3:00pm

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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