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AFC Totton vs Empire FC_SDFS Sunday Senior Cup Final_v2.pngTONIGHT - AFC Totton Sunday take on Empire FC in the Final of the Southampton Divisional Football Association (SDFA) Sunday Senior Cup, at the Snows Stadium on Salisbury Road.

In addition to striving to match the achievements of AFC Totton’s First Team who won the SDFA Saturday Senior Cup at St. Mary’s Stadium last Thursday, this showpiece final presents an opportunity for the Sunday Stags to complete the League & Cup Double, having already lifted the City of Southampton Sunday Football League (CoSSFL) Div.1 trophy thanks to an unbeaten league campaign that began with a 5-1 victory over tonight’s opponents on their ground at Sherfield English Sports Field, near Romsey.

In bright early-September sunshine, an own goal on the stroke of half-time put Totton ahead at the break, and further goals from Nathan Gray and substitute Josh Carey had them three-goals to the good before Empire pulled one back. But Matt Harrington restored order with a clever backheel finish midway through the second-half, and Billy Bellows stepped off the bench to complete the rout with a 77th-minute rasper from distance.

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Centre-back Dan Gain with goalkeeper Mitch Coleman in the background, in action for AFC Totton Sunday in the opening day match against Empire FC at Sherfield English.

The return match at Testwood Recreation Ground, on a significantly colder day in late-November, was a much closer affair. Empire led 2-0 at half-time with two goals from corners by Aaron Dunne and Jamie Johnson. But, despite missing several players through injury on the day, such that manager Sam Conway had to name himself in the starting line-up, the Sunday Stags fought back to earn a point.

An inspiring second-half performance from Nathan Gray, standing-in as captain in the injury-enforced absence of both Gary Bagley and Lewis Gundry, saw the striker pick out Matt Harrington with a long-range pass that enabled the centre-forward to slot the ball past the on-rushing goalkeeper from the edge of the penalty area. Then, Dan Gain got his head to Gray’s in-swinging corner at the back post, to level the scores at 2-2 with 15 minutes to go.

Totton lay siege upon the visitors’ goal for the remainder of the match but strong defending and good goalkeeping by Shane Mavrodaris ensured that Empire came away with a point – the only team to do so against AFC Totton Sunday, all season.

Boujee Pint CF were Totton’s 1st Round opponents in the SDFA Sunday Senior Cup, the Sunday Stags running out 5-1 winners at Fleming Park in Eastleigh. The 2nd Round saw them travel to Cantell School to face Unity 101, on a 3G pitch largely covered by oak leaves. From 0-2 down, they fought back to win 4-2, midfielder Tom Munday the star on that occasion. The quarter-final in January saw Totton overcome Boyatt Wood 2-0 with one goal in either half, to set-up a semi-final with Durley from the Hedge End area, at the neutral venue of Green Park in Millbrook, where Matt Harrington’s 23rd-minute strike proved to be the only goal of the game.

Empire FC finished 4th in the CoSSFL Div.1 this season, with a record of P10, W4, D2, L4. After receiving a bye in the 1st Round of the Southampton Sunday Senior Cup, they progressed through the 2nd Round with a 3-0 victory at Div.2 side RS Nomansland. They followed that up with a 3-1 home win over Sarisbury Spartans in the quarter-final. The semi-final pitted Empire against Div.3 opposition in the shape of Madeinheath United. The match was level at 2-2 at full-time, but the Div.1 side triumphed 4-3 in the penalty shoot-out to book their place in the Final.

Tonight’s match underwent a couple of venue changes before the two teams agreed to hold it at the home of AFC Totton’s First Team, to enable both sets of players and fans to enjoy the stadium experience under the floodlights.

The match kicks-off at 7:30pm. Entry is £7 for adults and £4 for concessions.

AFC Totton Sunday are sponsored by Gentlemen's League Barbers and Hurst Auto Assistance.

By Ben Rochey-Adams

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