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Snows Stadium, Salisbury Road, Totton SO40 2RW

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Tiverton Town_600px.pngIT HAS BEEN LESS THAN a month since the much-delayed first meeting of the season between AFC Totton and Tiverton Town, on a rain-sodden pitch at The Ian Moorcroft Stadium.

On-loan Bath City striker Alex Fletcher gave the home side a fifth-minute lead with a well-struck effort but that was cancelled out by Tony Lee’s 37th-minute equaliser, before Joe Oastler plundered his second goal for The Stags to secure all three points on a tricky away day excursion in Devon.

Far from feeling sorry for themselves, though, the relegation-threatened Tivvy responded to that defeat by winning all of their next three Southern League Premier Division South matches, starting with a surprise 2-1 away win at Play-Off challengers Hungerford Town. Then, back-to-back 2-0 home wins over Hanwell Town and Merthyr Town – another team with creditable Play-Off ambitions – were enough to pull Tiverton out of the bottom four places, before a goal conceded in the 90th minute resulted in a 1-2 defeat at Dorchester Town on Easter Monday.

Tiverton will arrive at the Snows Stadium on Saturday sat precariously above the relegation zone, with just one place and one point keeping them ahead of Devon rivals Plymouth Parkway, who still have three games in-hand over The Gold Army. Parkway have taken 12 points from their last 12 games, while Tiverton have managed 17 points during the same period, suggesting the dogfight between the two sides to retain their Step 3 status could go right to the wire; both of this season’s meetings between those two sides ended in draws.

29-year-old former Curzon Ashton and Southport centre-forward Joe Parker only joined the club in January, but he has scored six of Tiverton’s last seven goals, including braces against both Hungerford and Hanwell, and the second in last Saturday’s home win over Merthyr Town.

The relegation battle is hotting up at the bottom end of the table. The recent loss in form experienced by both Poole Town and Sholing will give Tiverton and Plymouth hope that they can yet climb out of the quagmire. The Dolphins have lost 20 matches this season, while The Boatmen have managed just one win in their last nine outings, although after this weekend’s tricky trip to the Snows Stadium, Tiverton will then face back-to-back home games against Play-Off challengers Gosport Borough, newly-crowned Champions Chesham United and the return match against Dorchester Town.

Harrow Borough could already be relegated by the time Tivvy make the journey to North London on Saturday 20 April, but their final game of the season at home to Sholing could be a relegation decider if either side is unable to pull clear of the bottom four before 27 April.

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AFC Totton Manager Jimmy Ball issues instructions from the sidelines during The Stags' 3-0 home win over Promotion Play-Off rivals Walton & Hersham on Easter Monday.

Having seen their scheduled Thursday evening jaunt to Plymouth Parkway postponed, The Stags have had almost a full week to prepare for the visit of Tiverton, following an impressive Easter Monday victory over a much-admired Walton & Hersham side. Goals from Scott Rendell – his 28th of the season in all competitions – Tony Lee and Ethan Taylor put The Swans to the sword to the tune of 3-0. The clean sheet means that Totton have gone 401 minutes without conceding a goal, and with debutant Marcel McIntosh producing a Man of the Match display and news from within the club suggesting that Jordan Ragguette, Leon Maloney and Matty Burrows may all be fit enough to make their returns sooner than first expected, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful around the Totton camp.

The Stags have lost only one of their last 14 league games, and that was at the home of the Champions, Chesham United on Saturday 16 March, since when they have taken 10 points from a possible 12.

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By Ben Rochey-Adams

Image courtesy of Tom McKenzie

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