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SPEAKING OF EIGHT-GOAL THRILLERS, when AFC Totton and Didcot Town crossed paths in their first Southern League Premier Division South encounter of the 2023/24 season at the Snows Stadium in October, The Stags romped to a 7-1 victory.

Jordan Chiedozie got the ball rolling with a scissor-kick volley in just the second minute of the game. And although Ben Putland headed Didcot level on 15 minutes, Totton took charge in the second half with two goals from Scott Rendell – the first, a penalty – two from Alfie Stanley and one each from Jordan Ragguette and Leon Maloney.

Our Match Report at the time described Didcot Town as “relegation-threatened”, and four months further down the line The Railwaymen prop up the Southern League Premier Division South table, 10 points adrift from safety with opportunities to pick up valuable wins rapidly running out.

Only Swindon Supermarine, on 77 goals conceded, have a more porous defence than the team from 15 miles south of Oxford, who have conceded 71 goals in 32 games to date. Their heavy defeat at the Snows Stadium was not the worst of their season so far; that accolade belongs to Poole Town, who inflicted a 0-7 defeat in mid-November courtesy of two goals from Tony Lee, who opened his latest AFC Totton account with another brace in the 4-4 draw with Dorchester Town on Wednesday evening.

Didcot have won five times in the league this season which, although it includes some impressive results, is the lowest number in the W column of all 22 teams in the whole division. They won 4-2 at Basingstoke Town on the day before Christmas Eve, and followed that with a 1-0 home success over Bracknell Town and a 2-1 victory at Winchester City, completing the double over The Citizens having beaten them 1-0 at home on 09 September to register their first league win of the campaign. Didcot’s fifth and most recent win was at Hayes & Yeading United on Tuesday 13 February, when a goal from Murphy Bennett and Luke Carnell’s 86th-minute strike saw them come back from Jerry Wiltshire’s first-half opener to triumph 2-1.

Totton are fast becoming the division’s draw specialists – now level with Hendon and Hanwell Town with 11 matches ending all-square, but from fewer games played – and Didcot have managed to squeeze out single points from three of their last five games. They went from 0-2 down to 3-2 up at Harrow Borough on Saturday 10 February, before Reece Yorke salvaged a point for Boro’. Didcot then held Walton & Hersham to a one-all home draw on 20 February, and then snatched a point at Salisbury thanks to Adam Learoyd’s goal seven minutes into stoppage time at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium last weekend.

In the Emirates FA Cup, Didcot overcame AFC Portchester, Tadley Calleva and Bristol Manor Farm before being eliminated by Yeovil Town in Third Round Qualifying. Southern League Division One South high-flyers Cribbs ended Didcot’s interest in the Isuzu FA Trophy as soon as it began. There was no respite to be found in the Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy, either, with Maidenhead United winning 5-2 at Didcot’s Loop Meadow Stadium in early November, in a competition that The Railwaymen won three times in the first decade of the 2000s.

Speaking after Wednesday night’s draw at home to Dorchester Town, AFC Totton Manager Jimmy Ball said of the upcoming trip to Didcot Town:

“The league table doesn’t matter. I’ve seen quite a bit of Didcot Town this season and I really, really like them. They work unbelievably hard; they’ve got an incredible spirit and they never give up. I’m planning for an unbelievably difficult game at their place and I expect nothing less from them. Our players are going to have to show some character to bounce back from tonight’s result.”

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By Ben Rochey-Adams

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