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LAST SATURDAY’S VICTORY at Westbury United extended AFC Totton’s unbeaten run in the Southern League Div.1 South to 15 matches, dating back to late-August. And they will be looking to keep that impressive sequence going when they entertain Bristol Manor Farm at the Snows Stadium, this weekend.
After pipping Jimmy Ball’s men to the last of the Promotion Play-Off places last season, The Farmy Army reached the final via a 3-1 win at Frome Town. But Winchester City thumped them 1-4 to secure their own promotion to the Southern League Premier Division and condemn Bristol Manor Farm to another year at Step 4.
With prolific striker Owen Howe having returned to the club during the course of 2021/22 after brief flirtations with Tiverton Town and the eventually-relegated Barnstaple Town, you might have been forgiven for fancying long-serving Manager Lee Lashenko’s team as potential promotion challengers this time round. But that is not how the 2022/23 season has played out. Saturday’s 2-1 win over Willand Rovers – only their fifth victory in the league this season – lifted Manor Farm off the foot of the league table, leapfrogging Slimbridge AFC and Lymington Town to the more optimistic side of the relegation trapdoor, with just under half the campaign remaining.
That win put an end to a run of three consecutive defeats in which they conceded a total of 11 goals, including five at Hamworthy United on Tuesday 10 January, with former Stags Sam Griffin and Curtis Young both getting their names on the scoresheet for The Hammers, who won the game 5-2.
• The LONG READ: Bristol Manor Farm 2-4 AFC Totton (SLD1S#14, 30th Nov 2022)
When Totton travelled to The Creek in late-November, for a match shifted to Wednesday night to allow fans to watch England take on Wales in the World Cup in Qatar the previous evening, The Stags gave up a 2-0 lead to be pegged back to level terms with 13 minutes to go, with goals from Scott Rendell and Ethan Taylor being cancelled out by an Owen Howe wonderstrike and a scrambled equaliser from defender Steven Kingdon. But Taylor struck again in the 86th minute to put the visitors back in front, and Conor Whiteley added gloss to the final score with a Bergkampesque flick around a defender and a crashing left-foot finish on the half-volley to make it 4-2 to The Stags.
But despite being on the losing side, Owen Howe made his presence felt that night, as he has a tendency to do whenever he plays against Totton. He scored both Manor Farms goals in the 2-2 draw at The Creek early last season. During his short stint with Barnstaple Town, he came off the bench to deflect Sam Griffin’s goalbound shot off the goal-line with what proved to be the last kick of the game to ensure a frustrating goalless draw. Then, enrolled once more into The Farmy Army in time for their visit to the Snows Stadium in mid-March, he stepped off the bench again, this time to score the winner in a smash-and-grab 1-2 Totton defeat. Add goalkeeper Ben John and set-piece specialist midfielder Jake Gosling, it’s difficult to understand from afar how the team that finished fifth last season have picked up so few points since August, but irrespective of their current struggling form, any team featuring ‘The Stagslayer’ up front poses a real threat.
Portus Abonae, the Latin phrase that appears within the Bristol Manor Farm club badge, translates to English as Port of Call. It was the Roman name for the harbour located behind one of the goals at The Creek, which now goes by the name of Sea Mills.
Aylesbury Vale Dynamos of the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division (Step 5) dumped Bristol Manor Farm out of the Emirates FA Cup at the Preliminary Round stage in August. But The Farmy Army marched long and hard into the Isuzu FA Trophy, beginning their campaign with a 3-2 win at Wimborne Town, which they followed-up with a penalty shoot-out victory at home to Bideford AFC after a 2-2 draw. In the 3rd Round, they beat Southern League Premier Division side Gosport Borough 2-0, before eventually losing 1-3 at Bolitho Park at the end of October to the reigning Southern League Div.1 South Champions, Plymouth Parkway.
READY, AIM, FIRE: Hisham Kasimu goes for goal during last season's Southern League Div.1 South match between AFC Totton and Bristol Manor at the Snows Stadium.
Prior to the first meeting between these two teams last season, AFC Totton had won all seven of the previous encounters. Craig Feeney appears to have enjoyed playing against them, notching five goals in as many games, including a brace in a 3-2 away win in September 2019. But Bristol Manor Farm took four points from the two games last season, despite striker Hisham Kasimu – who this week signed his first professional contract, following his move from Farnborough to Sutton United – scoring in both matches.
By Ben Rochey-Adams and Malcolm Tombs, Club Historian
Image courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography