Friday, 30 December 2011

A Look Back At 2011

2011. It's been a fantastic year for AFC Totton. Full of lots of ups and very few downs, if any.

The club began the year in the Zamaretto League South & West Division, and will finish it in the rebranded Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division vying for promotion to the Blue Square Bet South (Conference South).  It's a lot of sponsorship to get through, I know. It don't half make it a chore to read and, for me, write.

League winner's shield
2011 has seen The Mighty Stags win the South & West Division title, the Hampshire Senior Cup (for the second year running), and the Zamaretto Southern League Fair Play Trophy. There were also individual honours for Mike Gosney (Southern League Golden Boot with 36 goals) and Michael Charles (Hampshire Senior Cup Golden Boot with 6 goals). As well as this, Totton's new Testwood Stadium home was awarded the trophy for 'Best New Non-League Ground in England'.

The Testwood Stadium. There's something we can talk about. The new ground is a significant chapter in the club's history. Having played at Testwood Park since 1933, the club played their first game at the Testwood Stadium on the 19th of February 2011, christening the new turf with a 5-1 win over Paulton Rovers. Mike Gosney had the honour of scoring the first ever goal at the new ground, albeit in slightly unusual circumstances, as his 7th minute corner went straight into the net off the keeper.

The new home of AFC Totton: Testwood Stadium

In fact, if it weren't for a matter of a few inches, I wouldn't even be talking about the new ground in this article as it would have been opened in 2010. The club should have moved into the new ground a few months earlier than they did, but the pitch was made slightly smaller than FA rules and regulations would allow them to play on. A few blades of grass later, we were good to go.

Anyway, after the 5-1 victory over Paulton Rovers, Totton went on to win 10 of their remaining 13 games of the season, culminating in a 1-0 win against Gosport Borough at Privett Park on the final day of the season to clinch the league title. The Totton fans behind the goal spilled onto the pitch at the sound of the referee's full time whistle to celebrate with the players and a few bottles of bubbly!
Totton fans swarm onto the pitch after winning the league
With the league campaign behind them, Totton's season ended with the Hampshire Senior Cup final at St Mary's Stadium, home of Southampton FC. The club had won the trophy the previous season, beating Aldershot Town 4-0 in the final at AFC Bournemouth's Dean Court. This time the opposition was Sholing. The Southampton based team were looking for revenge after losing out to Totton in the title race.

Sholing took the lead with a cracking goal from Lee Wort from about 20 yards. Totton equalised just before half time when Mike Gosney's free kick was turned in by Michael Charles and then Gosney gave The Stags the lead less than a minute after the restart with a thunderous strike from the edge of the box that hit the roof of the net. Charles made sure of victory in added time with a cool finish under the keeper. Full time: AFC Totton 3-1 Sholing.

The Totton players celebrate winning the Hampshire Senior Cup

So Totton retained the Hampshire Senior Cup having only won it for the first time the previous season, thus completing a thoroughly impressive league and cup double. The Southern Premier League awaited Totton, while Sholing were left to fight another year in the South & West Division after losing the play-off final 1-0 to Frome Town who subsequently joined Totton in the Southern Premier.

The Hampshire Senior Cup final marked the end of Michael Green's Totton career as the talented left back, 22, was signed on a free transfer by League Two side Port Vale. Other players to leave Totton in the summer of '11 were young winger Tom Price who went to Poole Town, and midfielder Ryan Scott who was forced to retire through injury.

As for signings, in came left back Tom Baddeley, versatile defender Matt Oldring, right back Ryan Hill (returning for a second spell at Totton), and midfielder James Coutts. The club also signed winger David Abe after he impressed in a pre-season win away at Romsey Town. However, since that day, no one has seen or heard anything of him. It's as if he has just vanished off the face of the Earth...

Pre-season went pretty well for Totton. After a bland 1-1 draw away at Blackfield & Langley in a game made up entirely of reserve players, youth players and trialists, Totton welcomed a Southampton under-21 side to the Testwood Stadium. Amongst the young ranks of the Saints was contract rebel Jason Puncheon. The midfielder wanted to leave St Mary's, with Rangers, QPR and Millwall amongst those interested. So he was probably with the youth team players as punishment for his shenanigans.

Southampton won 1-0 thanks to Andy Robinson's first half goal. So Jason Puncheon, a player that had scored in the Premier League against Everton and Chelsea on loan at Blackpool last season, was kept at bay by the Totton defence. Going by this evidence, we can conclude that Jamie Whisken, Ian Richardson and Grant Porter are better than John Terry, David Luiz and Petr Cech.

Who needs 'em?
Totton went the rest of pre-season unbeaten (not including the Linden Homes Tournament were an under-strength side lost 1-0 to Thatcham Town). Wins over Farnborough (3-2), Romsey Town (4-1) and Winchester City (2-1), and a 2-2 draw with Salisbury City, made for a pretty successful pre-season programme.

The first game of the season was away at Arlesey Town who, like Totton, were promoted to the Southern Premier last season, winning the Central Division. Being at the same level as Totton the season before, Arlesey were a bit of an unknown quantity. Would the two teams be evenly matched or would one outshine the other? The answer came at full time as Totton won 2-0.

After that though, the real test began. These were now all teams which were established at this level. How would Totton shape up against these teams? Could they compete at this level? Evidently, they could. After beating Arlesey, Totton swept aside Oxford City (6-0), Swindon Supermarine (4-0) and Hemel Hempstead Town (3-0). 4 games into the season and The Stags were top of the table with a record of: Won 4, scored 15, conceded 0.
Lovely weather for it. Totton v Swindon Supermarine.
However, all good things must come to an end and Totton came back down to Earth with a bump as they went down 2-1 away at Leamington despite taking the lead. After this though, Totton won their next 4 games including impressive victories over former Conference side Weymouth and St Albans City who had played in the Conference South the season before.

8 of Totton's next 13 games were cup games of one form or another. Fleet Town (2-0), Clevedon Town (2-1), Weymouth (again) (4-2) and Hanworth Villa (3-2) were all dispatched in Qualifying Rounds on the way to achieving the club's first ever appearance in the FA Cup First Round Proper. The Clevedon game marked Ryan Scott's surprise return from football retirement after it turned out that his injury was not as bad as originally feared. Scott made an immediate impact, scoring the winning goal (well okay, it was an own goal, but it was his shot that caused it), against Clevedon.

The Stags were paired with Northern Premier League side Bradford Park Avenue in the FA Cup First Round Proper and many expected a tight affair with no team really standing out as clear favourites. As it turned out, Totton made all sorts of history as they demolished Bradford 8-1 to set up a Second Round tie against League Two Bristol Rovers on December 4th. They became the first post-war non-league side to score 8 in the FA Cup Proper Rounds, Stefan Brown came off the bench to score the fastest hat-trick by a substitute in the history of the FA Cup, it was Bradford PA's biggest ever defeat in the competition and a record crowd of 2,315 packed into the Testwood Stadium for the match. You can see all the goals from the game in the video below.

Totton played Weymouth (again!) in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy in October but went down 3-2. But enough about Weymouth, we've got them to come (AGAIN!!!) in the away league fixture in January. (Cosmic). Let's get back to the FA Cup, and the small matter of Totton's first ever competitive fixture against Football League opposition.

The game was televised live on ITV1 and all the big names were there to cover it. Adrian Chiles, Gareth Southgate and Andy Townsend graced the humble surroundings of the Testwood Stadium to present, talk about and analyse the game, while up in the gantry Clive Tyldesley and Jim Beglin were the commentators. There haven't been names that big at Totton since Iain Brunnschweiler.

Gold dust.
Unfortunately for Totton, the cup dream was shattered within 13 minutes as Rovers scored 3 of the best goals you will see all year. Bristol made it 4-0 before Nathaniel Sherborne sent the Stag Army wild with a headed goal from Tom Baddeley's cross. Chants of "We're gonna win 5-4!" were quickly altered to "We're gonna win 6-5!" as the League Two outfit scored a minute later before going on to win 6-1. A sad way to end the cup run, but Totton could be proud of a fantastic achievement and look forward to a more quiet night away at Fareham in the Hampshire Senior Cup 3rd Round the following Tuesday! It didn't do the club coffers any harm either.

After beating Fareham 4-1, it was back to league action for Totton after what seemed like a lifetime of cup game after cup game. A 2-0 win over Hemel Hempstead completed the league double over The Tudors after the 3-0 away win earlier in the season. The Stags also ensured they were unbeaten against Oxford City this season (6-0 in the home fixture) with a 2-2 draw after a dramatic last gasp Ryan Hill equaliser. 
Class of 2011
With everyone slightly hungover and feeling as stuffed as the turkeys they'd eaten the day before, a crowd of 577 watched Totton play Bashley on Boxing Day in this season's local derby. The two clubs are separated by just 13 miles of New Forest and met for the first time in league competition for over 20 years. The Stags triumphed 2-0 in their penultimate game of 2011.

A trip to Wiltshire to play Chippenham Town on New Year's Eve is all that remains now for Totton. 12 months ago, The Stags began 2011 with a 4-1 away win against Wimborne Town on January 3rd. Can they end the calendar year the way they started it? You'll find out later.

So there you have it. A pretty darn good year for AFC Totton, wouldn't you say? League title, promotion, the county cup, a fantastic FA Cup run, and all sorts of records broken. The Stags' league record (not including Chippenham on New Year's Eve) in the calendar year 2011 reads like this:

Played: 44. Won: 34. Drawn: 3. Lost: 7. For: 123. Against: 33. GD: +90. Points: 105.

Onward into 2012, where promotion to the Conference South is up for grabs and Mark Osman celebrates his testimonial after 10 years at Totton. Here's to another prosperous year for The Mighty Stags.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

AFC Totton 2-0 Bashley, 26/12/11 1pm


After a last minute draw at Oxford City last time out, Totton were hoping for a slightly easier ride in this Boxing Day derby clash against Bashley. Ryan Hill scored with nearly the last kick of the game to rescue a point against Oxford for only our second draw of the season. Bashley were undone by 2 second half goals as they lost 2-1 at Weymouth in their previous game.

Bashley made the stronger start to the game and with just 40 seconds on the clock Mark Gamble forced a corner after his shot was blocked by Ian Richardson. Totton dealt with the corner and set up a counter attack as Nathaniel Sherborne was released down the left flank, but as he made his way towards the box there were no other Totton players up with him so he had no choice but to have a go at goal himself and his effort was blocked and went behind for a corner.

A foul on Carl Pettefer in the centre circle resulted in Jamie Whisken launching a long free kick into the Bashley box. The Bash defence cleared the danger but Totton came straight back at them and Michael Charles managed to squeeze through the back line but his shot was high and wide.

Bashley were quite physical in their approach and they conceded another free kick out wide on the right when Jon Davies was fouled. Mike Gosney swung the ball into the box but it evaded everyone and went straight into Tommy Smith's arms.

Soon though, Bashley were made to pay for the physical nature of their play when a foul on Sherborne resulted in a free kick 35 yards out. Ryan Hill fired the ball through the packed penalty area without anyone getting a touch on it and it crept past the keeper and into the bottom corner to give Totton the lead.

Bashley came back at Totton in search of a quick equaliser and 3 minutes after the goal a corner to the far post was headed back across goal and Grant Porter commanded his area well to come off his line and punch the ball clear.

With nearly half an hour played Bashley were denied by Porter again. From a long throw-in, James Stokoe's looping header was caught on the line by Porter. Then after some pinball in the Totton box a Bashley player, (it was hard to tell who), fired wide of the left-hand post.

Bashley pair James Stokoe and Jack Smith picked up a booking each for a foul on Scott Sampson and kicking the ball away respectively. Those bookings, and a couple of half chances for both sides, made up the remainder of the first half.

Half time: AFC Totton 1-0 Bashley

60 seconds after the restart Totton fashioned another chance for themselves when Gosney played in Sherborne who timed his run well to beat the offside trap. He ran to the by-line and crossed for Michael Charles whose shot was deflected behind.

From the resulting corner The Stags doubled their lead. Gosney took it short, playing a one-two with Jon Davies before taking a touch and rifling a shot into the bottom corner. The ball came through a group of players in the box which made it difficult for Bash goalkeeper Tommy Smith to see it until it was too late.

Bashley didn't lie down and roll over though, and they could have pulled one back on 52 minutes. A cross from Bash skipper Dave Allen was turned goalwards by Ian Oliver but the effort was deflected wide for a corner by Jamie Whisken.

Liam Green delivered the corner to the near post where Luke Whitley controlled the ball and volleyed it towards the top corner where a magnificent acrobatic save from Grant Porter prevented the back of the net from bulging.

Mark Gamble then beat the Totton offside trap but should have done better as his weak effort was straight at Porter. Gamble was booked a minute later for a foul on Matt Oldring.

Bashley continued to go forward in search of a goal and their policy of committing lots of players to attack left them susceptible to counter attacks. Totton should maybe have had a penalty when Luke Whitley sent Sherborne tumbling in the box with a mistimed tackle but the referee waved play on much to the anger of the Totton fans in the stand near to where the incident occurred.

Totton almost trebled the advantage with 8 minutes to go when Gosney's cross was too long but substitute Stefan Brown did well to hook it back across the box to the penalty spot where Sherborne attempted an overhead effort that wasn't far over the crossbar.

Full time: AFC Totton 2-0 Bashley

Bashley may have been beaten but they were by no means second best in a contest that was even in almost every department except the one that matters: Goals. Totton weren't at their best but two long range goals that could have been described more as half-chances were enough to get them back to winning ways in the league. Next up for The Stags is Chippenham Town away on New Year's Eve.

AFC Totton: Porter, Hill, Whisken, Richardson, Sampson (Oldring 48), Davies, Pettefer, Campbell, Gosney, Sherborne (Jack 83), Charles (Brown 66). Unused subs: Sturgess, Osman.

Bashley: Tommy Smith, Jack Smith (Vokes 85), Oliver (Foster 89), Middleton, Whitley, Finlay, Gillespie, Allen, Green (Penny 67), Stokoe, Gamble. Unused subs: Gazzard, Prodomo.

Totton: Hill (12), Gosney (47).

Officials: Referee: Mr S Tomlinson. Assistants: Mr S Wade & Mr G Skillen.

Attendance: 577.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Transfer News: James Coutts

Totton midfielder James Coutts has rejoined former club Weymouth FC on a one month loan.

Coutts has found games hard to come by for The Stags this season with Carl Pettefer and Ryan Scott playing very well together in the centre of midfield, so has gone to his hometown club for some first team action and will hopefully return ready to fight for a place in the Totton team.

The former Dorchester Town midfielder has made 19 appearances in all competitions for Totton so far this season, 11 in the league and 8 in cup matches, with most of them coming off the bench. He has scored 4 goals this season, with all 4 coming in cup competitions. He scored a hattrick in the 2nd round Hampshire Senior Cup tie with Cove in October, and the only goal, a superb 20 yard volley, in the 1-0 Red Insure Cup victory over Poole Town in November.

Meanwhile, Coutts may get a chance in the first team on his return from loan as central midfielder Ryan Scott will be out for a few weeks as he requires an operation on a groin injury.

Oxford City 2-2 AFC Totton, 17/12/11 3pm


There was a pitch inspection the morning of the day of this game. Thankfully it was passed and the game could go ahead as planned. Oxford City are doing very nicely in the league so far this season, and are level on points with Totton. If you were at the reverse fixture at the Testwood Stadium back in August you might find that a bit hard to believe, as Totton triumphed 6-0 that day. The Stags brushed Oxford aside with relative ease and notched up their biggest league win of the season so far. But Oxford have pushed on from that freak result and are now a real contender at the top of the table.

Oxford made all the early running without really testing Grant Porter. Totton soon got themselves into the game with Tom Baddeley and Mike Gosney linking up well down the left on a few occasions to put crosses into the box. Totton won a free kick, but Gosney was denied by Oxford goalkeeper Jason Mooney. Michael Charles then came close from another set piece a his header was just over the bar.

Oxford came back at Totton on 15 minutes when Adam Learoyd sent a header straight at Porter, and then good play from Darren Pond and Liam Malone resulted in an Andy Ballard long throw-in that was scuffed wide by Pond.

A minute later though, Oxford's pressure paid off. Lee Steele won a throw-in off Tom Baddeley and Ballard was the one to launch it into the box once again. This time the ball fell for Steele in a penalty box that more resembled a quagmire, but the mud stopped the ball from bouncing and Wayne Blossom reacted swiftly to drive a shot across goal and into the bottom corner.

Totton reacted well to falling behind and a cross from Gosney almost resulted in an equaliser but Nathaniel Sherborne's effort was just wide of the post. Oxford replied when Michael Lyon crossed for Pond to head the ball down for Steele but his shot on the volley was held comfortably by Porter. 

Totton then hit Oxford on the counter attack when a solid but fair tackle by Jamie Whisken set up Ryan Hill to charge forward but he was eventually brought to a halt by a foul on the edge of the box. Gosney stepped up again but fired the free kick over the bar. 

After a period of scrappy play from both sides, Totton grabbed an equaliser on the break. A long ball down the right from Hill was headed away by Blossom but the ball got bogged down on the muddy surface and Michael Charles collected the loose ball and ran to the by-line. He managed to get goal-side of the defender marking him and shot across goal. Mooney got down to push it away but the ball fell to Sherborne who planted a first time shot into the far corner.

After surviving a couple of Totton corners, Oxford went on the counter attack before winning a free kick on the right flank. Marvin Martin swung the ball over to the far post and it was knocked back across goal to Lee Steele who fired home first time into the far corner for the half time lead.

Half time: Oxford City 2-1 AFC Totton

Totton came out fighting in the second half and Gosney got in behind the defence only to find Mooney with his cross. Oxford found it difficult to beat the Totton defence, with balls over the top being dealt with comfortably by  Jamie Whisken and Ian Richardson. 

Totton didn't make the most of their chances though, with the ball too often ending up going behind for a goal kick after good goalscoring opportunities had been created.Felipe Barcelos came on to replace Michael Lyon and almost made an immediate impact when he beat the Totton offside trap and ran clear but was unable to get a shot on goal before the defence got back to halt his progress. 

Totton came back again and Carl Pettefer crossed for Michael Charles who headed wide from a good position and moments later Ryan Hill's free kick was tipped around the post by Mooney's acrobatic dive.

Oxford's substitutions seemed to be paying off and when Alex Fisher replaced Declan Benjamin he appeared to be in on goal but was halted by the offside flag, and seconds later he forced Porter into an excellent save when his curling effort was deflected and the keeper had to correct his footing to make the stop.

Totton were well on top for long periods of the second half and even Porter was hitting regular long balls into the City penalty area as they searched for a second equaliser. Oxford just couldn't get the ball clear and, whenever they did, it came straight back at them.

As the game moved into added time, Totton won two corners in quick succession but both were comfortably held by Mooney. A low cross then skidded across the face of goal without anyone getting a touch on it and a couple more crosses ended up on the roof of the stand, drawing frustrated groans from the travelling Stag Army behind the goal. 

Mooney then did well to back-track and get a hand on Nathan Campbell’s looping header and tip it behind for another corner. From the corner, a clearance fell kindly for Sherborne and he thought he'd scored when his shot seemed destined for the back of the net when Mooney dived far to his right to make an almost impossible save to touch it behind for yet another Totton corner.

The ball was delivered for the umpteenth corner of the game and, from a position similar to Sherborne's chance seconds earlier, Ryan Hill smashed a volley past Mooney’s dive and into the top corner before being mobbed by his team mates and sparking scenes of delirium from the Totton fans.

Full time: Oxford City 2-2 AFC Totton

For the second time in a week, Oxford were denied all 3 points by a last minute equaliser, having done the same against Chesham in midweek. For Totton, it was a well deserved point and, were it not for Jason Mooney in the Oxford goal, we could have won this one quite comfortably. Our next game is not until Boxing Day (Monday 26th Dec) when we play Bashley at the Testwood Stadium in our local derby this season. Hopefully you won't all have eaten too much to drag yourself to the game or drank too much to form a coherent sentence! Merry Christmas everyone!

AFC Totton: Porter, Hill, Richardson, Whisken, Baddeley (Sampson 81), Campbell, Pettefer, Gosney, Brown, Sherborne, Charles. Unused subs: Casey, Sturgess, McKie, Jack.

Oxford City: Mooney, Blossom, Learoyd, Ballard, Pond, Wilmott, Lyon (Barcelos 52), Malone, Benjamin (Fisher 66), Steele, Martin. Unused subs: Fleet, McLoughlin, Heapy.

Oxford: Blossom (15), Steele (45)
Totton: Sherborne (34), Hill (90)

Officials: Referee: Mr M Foley. Assistants: Mr P Andrew & Mr A Hickham.

Attendance: 243.