Monday, 4 February 2013

Report: AFC Totton 2-0 Bashley - Southern Premier

Totton's Stefan Brown (centre)
THE result and the way it came about may have been true to form but it could, and at times should, have been so different as Bashley slipped to derby day defeat at AFC Totton.

The way the visitors went about their task and rattled their local rivals was less predictable than the final outcome, though in the end, Bash were architects of their own downfall from the outset.

While former Bash boss Steve Riley, now in charge at the Testwood Stadium, appears to be getting the balance right, at least at home, the visiting fans baulked at a Bash selection that ultimately didn’t work.

With just two points dropped in nine home matches, the Stags chief immediately bolstered his striking options in the week he found out that AFC Bournemouth loanee Jordan Chiedozie would be on the sidelines for a few weeks.

And the move to bring back fans favourite Stefan Brown on loan from Basingstoke instantly paid dividends with Totton’s livewire creating space on the left, swinging in a cross for strike partner Richard Gillespie to cleverly peel away from his marker and glance home at the far post.

Bash, winless in six matches and having not played for four weeks because of postponements, did not give in, but their agonising lack of fire power left the men in yellow tearing their hair out after largely dominating the rest of the half.

Striker Mark Gamble lined up in midfield while burly front-man James Stokoe warmed the bench with winger Charlie Knight partnering an out-of-sorts Rob Gradwell in attack.

The visitors passed the ball neatly on a tricky surface and frequently rattled the Stags defence.

But Gradwell, try as he might, lacked the sharpness to really get at Ross Bottomley and Jamie Whisken and failed to provide the option at the end of Bashley’s decent moves.

Gray’s charges could well have levelled before the break, indeed it was the least they deserved, but their opportunities came from set pieces with defender Gary Middleton offering Bashley’s biggest goal threat.

The reliable stopper, who lashed home an injury time winner against Bedworth in September, thumped an early corner over the crossbar before being frustrated by a series of unbelievable blocks and saves on the half hour.

Brad Strickland’s bobbling centre was lashed towards goal before being half cleared by Bottomley, a feat that the ex-Bash defender repeated moments later with Middleton nailed on to score the rebound, but Totton keeper Gareth Barfoot clawed the effort away despite being sat on the ground when the fierce drive came in.

Barfoot came to the rescue to stop Knight scoring directly from a corner while at the other end, Brown’s dipping half volley was spectacularly saved by Stuart Moore on the stroke of half time.

Totton survived the onslaught and came out with renewed solidarity after the restart with the game gradually losing its sting.

Bash could have levelled when Barfoot dropped a routine ball but neither Strickland nor nor impressive debutant George Colson could take advantage at the far post.

Brown’s energy kept the hosts ticking over in attack as Gradwell cut an increasingly isolated figure at the other end and Bash ran out of steam.

Knight made space for himself to connect with Ian Oliver’s cross from the left but it summed his and Bashley’s afternoon up when his close range header ended up closer to the corner flag than the goal.

And with 12 minutes to go, the match was put to bed in fine fashion when Jonathan Davies unleashed a superb volley from the edge of the area that sailed past Moore, finding the top corner following Whisken’s knockdown.

The game had gone by the time substitute James Stokoe was pushed up front, but even then he gave a glimpse of what might have been with smart control of a throughball and tidy finish ruled out by a marginal offside decision.

Even with stark contrasts in form, the margins are tight in the Southern League Premier Division. With Bashley now three points off the relegation places, having scored two goals in their last six matches, fans will be crying out to see the likes of Gamble and Stokoe in more advanced roles after the alternative plan failed in somewhat tepid fashion.

*TOTTON boss Steve Riley talks to the Bournemouth Echo about AFC Bournemouth loanees Baily Cargill and Jordan Chiedozie as well as the match and Bashley's plight here

*A FULL range of match photos from photographer Denis Murphy can be found here

AFC TOTTON: Barfoot, R Hill, Cargill, Bottomley, Whisken, Brown (Rudd 85), Pettefer, Davies (Roberts 79), Coutts, Gillespie (Whitley 66), Gosney. Unused subs: Oldring, R Casey (g/k).

Goals: Gillespie 3, Davies 78. 

BASHLEY: Moore, Strickland, Oliver, Stephenson, Middleton, Richardson, J Casey (T Hill 82), Colson, Gradwell (Finlay 76), Gamble (Stokoe 65), Knight. Unused subs: Foster, Kearn (g/k).

STAR MAN: Stefan Brown (AFC Totton)

Could do no wrong on his return. It may not have been his, or indeed Totton’s, most polished performance, but has come in after not getting game time at Basingstoke and showed few signs of rustiness. Kept going all game and provided the attacking impetus for the hosts to seal an important win. 

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