By Sean McGlead (AFC Totton)
Yesterday’s game with Evesham United was the first of FIVE home games between Nov 25th and Dec 26th for the Stags. Three of the opponents in those games are in the play-off places as things stand, and Evesham were the first of those. As a fan I certainly expected a tough game yesterday and that is exactly what we got.
As for team news going into yesterday’s game. Louis Langdown reverted to the eleven that started in last week’s win at Shortwood United. On the bench was Sherborne, Nolan, Gunson, Chugg and Allen.
The game did not kick off until 4pm due to Evesham United’s coach breaking down on the M4, they did not arrive at the ground until 3.30pm.
The late arrival did not seem to affect the visitors to much because they certainly had the better of the opening exchanges and they were rewarded when centre half Ashley Williams fired them ahead from the edge of the box in the 11th minute
Evesham were buoyed by their early goal and they continued to have the better of it and ust a couple of minutes after the goal Lewis Powell saw a chance go over the bar, Powell is a player who seems to score against the Stags every time we came up against him, especially in his Yate Town and Mangotsfield days.
Totton had not been allowed to much time on the ball with the Robins quick to close down space, but the Stags just seemed to be edging there way into the game earning a couple of free kicks, one of which Jack Masterton lifted into a packed box and was cleared away, whilst the other was a direct free kick that Tony Lee fired straight at Robins keeper Kevin Sawyer.
The Robins thought they had doubled their lead on 17 minutes when a ball was threaded through the Stags defence for Paul Fahy who slipped the ball past Murphy and into the net. However, their celebrations were doused when they saw the linesman’s flag up for offside.
Totton went down the other end and earned themselves a corner, the corner was cleared, but the ball came back to Masterton who crossed the ball back into the box and it was met by Jack Barker whose header was blocked.
Then came a moment that could have proved costly for the visitors. Goal scorer Ashley Williams had already received a caution from referee Benjamin Knight and he stupidly clashed with Tony Lee not far from the home dugout and referee Knight showed him his 2nd yellow card and the Robins were down to 10 men with only 27 minutes on the clock.
Suddenly the Stags were in the ascendancy with Sawyer forced to save after a close range effort from the Stags and this was followed by another chance with Toby Adekunle seeing a looping header from a Connor York cross drift over the bar. This was followed by some nice work on the edge of the Evesham box from the Stags that ended up with a shot from Alfy Whittingham that caught a big deflection and forced Evesham keeper Sawyer to save, the Robins stopper then went down with players following in for any spillage and he needed treatment from the physio for a minute or two.
The Stags then earned themselves another free kick around 30 yards out right of centre. Jack Masterton stepped up and curled the ball over the wall and it went inside the right-hand post and the Stags were level. This was Jack Masterton’s first goal for the club.
Then the Stags could have been ahead on the stroke of half time when Craig Feeney was played in on the right-hand side of the area and Feeney fired a shot into the side netting much to his frustration.
Half-Time: AFC Totton 1 Evesham United 1
The Stags finished the first half strongly, but they were up against a physical and streetwise opponent, who were not going to make it easy for them.
The Stags were being allowed time on the ball as the visitors went deep, but the Robins were quick to move forward once they had the ball and they looked very capable despite being a man down.
There was little in the way of goalmouth action to get the shivering seasons best crowd of 315 to excited, in fact it was around the hour mark before a half decent chance came and it was the visitors who created it after a cross in from the left hand side found it’s way to Paul Fahy at the back of the area, the Robins No 11 shifted the ball from his right foot onto his left and he attempted to curl the ball inside the left hand post, but unfortunately for him he got to much bend on the ball and it swerved harmlessly wide.
Chances were still few, but two decent ones arrived on 65 and 69 minutes for the Stags. The first chance came when Feeney was the recipient of a nice ball through and his first-time effort was pushed away by Sawyer and the 2nd chance saw Sawyer deny Tony Lee who sent in a low drive that forced the Robins keeper to parry away. These were two good chances that could have earned the Stags the three points, but credit to Sawyer who in those two moments effectively earned his side their point.
The visitors had a late effort from substitute James Campbell whose shot from the left forced Murphy to save and Alfy Whittingham saw a shot go narrowly wide in added time for the Stags.
Full-Time: AFC Totton 1 Evesham United 1
Evesham United: Sawyer, Dovey, Bennett, Turley (Rhodes 88), A. Williams, Liddiard, Bryan, Hancock, Powell (Campbell 76), Francis (Binns 68), Fahy
Subs not unsed: Odiero, Gray