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GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND’S ROUND of fixtures, there are currently three teams in the Southern League Div.1 South who have not suffered defeat in their last six league outings.
One of those teams is the resurgent Lymington Town, who having stared relegation down the barrel for much of the 2022/23 campaign have now lifted themselves eight points clear of the drop zone with a total of 10 wins to their name following an impressive away win at Exmouth Town last weekend.
The other two in-form teams will meet each other on Saturday afternoon, when Larkhall Athletic, who have enjoyed a recent resurgence of their own, will be the visitors to Snows Stadium.
At Christmas, The Larks were hovering a few places above the relegation slots with just four wins and nine defeats from their first 18 matches of the season. Boxing Day brought a 2-1 home win over Westbury United, and Larkhall saw in the New Year with a 2-2 draw at local rivals Frome Town and a victory to the tune of 3-0 at Exmouth.
Two 0-5 defeats in three games – at Hamworthy United and Evesham United, either side of a 1-1 draw at home to Bashley – briefly threatened to derail their season, but two wins in a double-header over bottom-of-the-table Slimbridge AFC, winning 1-0 at Thornhill Park and 3-1 at The Larks’ own Plain Ham ground just four days apart, began a sequence of five wins and one draw – a recent record that only the title-chasing Stags themselves currently better with seven consecutive wins in the league, and nine in all competitions.
Larkhall’s record could have been even better. They were 1-0 up at home to fourth-placed Wimborne Town on Wednesday night when a torrential downpour during the half-time interval made the pitch unplayable. According to our own Jimmy Ball, who was there to size up the imminent opposition, the teams came out and played for five minutes before the Referee called a halt to proceedings by abandoning the match.
The signing of 24-year-old central defender Aaron Parsons from Melksham Town, who are currently one place above Larkhall in the Southern League Div.1 South table, has helped to strengthen the team since his arrival at the end of February. There is no stand-out prolific goalscorer in The Larks’ ranks, although forwards Dawid Regula, Wayne Nderemani and Abdulrasaq Alamu-Tajudeen, who is dual-signed from National League South side Chippenham Town, have all weighed in with multiple goals in recent matches, while the experienced and hardworking skipper Brad Norris still offers plenty of knowhow and threat in his third stint with the club.
Luke Hallett congratulates Harvey Woods for his goal at Plain Ham in October.
Norris was powerless to prevent AFC Totton plundering all three points when the two sides met at Plain Ham in October. Adam Tomasso helped himself to an early goal with a well-struck effort from the edge of the penalty area to get The Stags underway at what has been a difficult ground for them over the years. Scott Rendell added a second from the penalty spot after just six minutes. The Stags had to wait until the 90th minute to score their third and final goal, with Ethan Taylor putting the ball on a plate for the young Southampton-loanee Harvey Woods to make his mark with a late goal.
The Larks and The Stags did battle three times last season, all three games ending with 2-1 scorelines. Totton won the first league encounter at Plain Ham, but lost at the same venue a fortnight later when Larkhall ended the club’s record-equalling run in the FA Trophy, despite Hisham Kasimu having put the visitors ahead. Then, a late, late goal from defender Josh Jones made the difference in what proved to be a disappointing league defeat against a 10-man Larkhall side at the Snows Stadium, after the scorer of their first goal, Alex Lambert, was dismissed around the 80th minute.
Overall, our records log 17 meetings between these two sides. Larkhall have been the winners on 8 occasions, while Totton have won six times. There have been only two draws. If The Stags can close that gap on Saturday and then beat Paulton Rovers on Tuesday night, they will take top spot in the Southern League Div.1 South league table for the first time under Jimmy Ball’s management.
By Ben Rochey-Adams and Malcolm Tombs, Club Historian
Image courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography