AS EIGHT-TIME WINNERS of the Southampton Divisional Football Association (SDFA) Saturday Senior Cup, Sholing will be looking to spoil AFC Totton’s dreams of a League & Cup treble when the two local rivals meet in this season’s competition Final at St. Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday 17 May.
The Portsmouth Road club will no doubt still be smarting from having been pipped at the post for the Southern League Div.1 South title, after having led the way for the vast majority of the season. Despite an early-season issue with the pitch at the Imperial Homes Stadium on the other side of the Itchen Bridge, The Boatmen set the pace in the league with eight wins from their opening nine league games, including a smash and grab raid on the Snows Stadium when Daniel Mason’s goal saw Manager Dave Diaper’s team take all three points.
They powered on through to the New Year, only coming unstuck when the prolonged bad weather caused havoc with their fixture schedule, with their pitch being particularly prone to waterlogging. Sholing’s run of four games without a win between February and March handed the initiative to the indomitable Stags, and Jimmy Ball's team took full advantage by going on to not only claim the Southern League Div.1 South title, but also collect the Southern League Div.1 Champion of Champions Trophy with a 2-1 victory over their Central division counterparts Berkhamsted at Chesham United’s ground in Buckinghamshire a fortnight ago.
CHAMPIONS: AFC Totton skipper Mike Carter lifts the Southern League Div.1 South Shield after The Stags secured the title with two games to spare.
Nevertheless, 2022/23 was still a successful season for The Boatmen, who will join Totton at Step 3 of the non-league pyramid next season following their triumph in the end of season Promotion Play-Offs. The absence of regular No.1 Ryan Gosney due to suspension wasn’t a problem as the Mason brothers, Byron and Daniel, scored the goals to see Sholing safely past the challenge of Wimborne Town, despit Daniel Bartlett’s late consolation two minutes into stoppage time. Then, in the Play-Off Final at their own Imperial Homes Stadium on the first May Bank Holiday Monday, second-half strikes from Lee Wort and Daniel Mason proved enough to beat Hamworthy United, for whom ex-Stag Sam Griffin wore the captain’s armband.
Subject to geographically-based administrative decisions from the Southern League and ratification from the Football Association, both Totton and Sholing are expected to line up in the Southern League Premier Division next season, where fans will relish the opportunity to renew acquaintances with the likes of Winchester City, Dorchester Town and Gosport Borough, as well beaten Step 3 Play-Off participants Poole Town, for whom former Stags Ade Olumuyiwa and Jamie Whisken have featured prominently this season.
Dave Diaper’s Boatmen have racked up 18 goals in their four ties in this season’s Southampton Senior Cup, beating Millbrook, Fawley AFC, Bashley and Hythe & Dibden along the way. Defending holders Totton, meanwhile, scored 10 goals while navigating their way past the challenges of Ringwood Town, AFC Stoneham, Alresford Town and Hamble Club to set-up the imminent showdown with Sholing at St. Mary’s Stadium.
There is never any love lost when AFC Totton and Sholing come up against one another, and this occasion at the home of The Saints is unlikely to be any different. The Boatmen have had the better of the recent head-to-head encounters between the two sides, although they relied massively on an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Gosney to keep them in the most recent game, even after Brad Targett had put them ahead midway through the first half at Sholing’s ground in February.
In last season’s St. Mary’s Final in the same competition, AFC Totton beat Wessex League side Folland Sports 3-0 to lift the trophy for the first time since 1982. Hisham Kasimu (now of Sutton United), Freddie Read (pictured below scoring his goal in that game) and Lewis Waterfield (now at Dorchester) scored the goals on the night.
By Ben Rochey-Adams
Images courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography