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Walton-Hersham_600px.pngFOLLOWING DRAWS IN BOTH teams’ Good Friday round of matches, AFC Totton could give their chances of making the Southern League Premier Division South Promotion Play-Offs a major boost with a victory over fellow challengers Walton & Hersham at the Snows Stadium on Easter Monday.

The Swans actually played their game against relegation-threatened Harrow Borough on Thursday evening, in what turned out to be an eight-goal thriller at the Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub in Surrey.

A crowd of 802 saw Walton’s former Bracknell Town player Nana Owusu open the scoring for the home side in the 14th minute, but it took Ronny Mfinda just two minutes to find an equaliser for The Boro’. An Arsen Ujkaj own goal put the visitors ahead, before Stan Flaherty levelled things up again at 2-2. However, Reece Yorke’s goal three minutes into first-half stoppage time saw Harrow go in as 3-2 leaders at the break.

A 62nd minute goal from Toby Nnadozie gave Harrow a two-goal cushion but it wasn’t enough to take all three points. Goals from Eddie Simon in the 83rd minute and Nana Owusu’s second, seven minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game, saw The Swans snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Fourth-placed Totton, currently on 63 points following their 0-0 draw at Poole Town on Friday, have two games in-hand over The Swans, who have 57 points; a win on Easter Monday would extend the gap to nine points in The Stags’ favour, with those extra matches presenting two opportunities to widen the gap still further.

But a home win is by no means a foregone conclusion, especially if the evidence of the last meeting between these two teams on New Year’s Day is anything to go by. A long-range strike from Harry Pointing and an 89th minute goal from Taurean McDonald-Roberts appeared to have handed Walton & Hersham a routine two-nil home win, until Joe Oastler pulled one back within a minute with his first AFC Totton goal, and substitute Matty Burrows completed a brilliant solo effort by firing in off the underside of The Swans’ crossbar to ensure the game ended 2-2.

The seven owners of Walton & Hersham became the world’s youngest owners of a senior level football club as 19-year-olds, just a few years ago. There is a very interesting 10-minute documentary about them on YouTube, and they were also a featured club during the run-in to their successful 2022/23 campaign on the YouTube series Bunch of Amateurs.

The Swans began the 2023/24 season in good form, winning four of their first five games, scoring 21 goals in the process, with 6-3 and 5-2 home wins over Dorchester Town and Bracknell Town, respectively. League leaders Chesham United ended their participation in the Emirates FA Cup at the first hurdle, while their elimination from the Isuzu FA Trophy at the First Round stage at Hendon coincided with a dip in league form that saw Walton & Hersham lose nine times from the start of November until their second game in February, during which they picked up only 11 points from a possible 42, and they were also knocked out of the Surrey Senior Cup by Isthmian League South Central Division side Chertsey Town on penalties.

But Thursday evening’s draw with Harrow Borough means The Swans come to the Snows Stadium unbeaten in their last four outings, having only lost two of their last 10 matches, a run that began in February with impressive back-to-back one-nil away wins at Sholing and Hungerford Town. They have lost 12 league matches in total so far this season, and currently sit in seventh place in the table, with Merthyr Town positioned between them and Hungerford in the last of the Play-Off spots.

After the goalless draw at the Black and Gold Stadium in Dorset on Friday, AFC Totton boss Jimmy Ball said:

“The schedule is tough at the moment, but the players would rather play games of football than train, so bring it on. The fans were magnificent, travelling in their numbers to make a great atmosphere. It provides a lot of energy to the players, and really helps them. Walton & Hersham are a good footballing side, who like to pass the ball. We are, too, so it should be a good old ding-dong!”

By Ben Rochey-Adams

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