Totton have started to find their feet again after two straight defeats over the new year period. A 3-0 win over Chesham was followed by a victory of the same scoreline against Swindon Supermarine in the Red Insure Cup. A 2-2 draw with Brackley at the weekend made it 3 games unbeaten in all competitions for The Stags now. To extend that run we would have to get something against Brackley's local rivals Banbury United. The Puritans' recent form has been indifferent at best; 2 wins, 2 defeats and 2 draws from their last 6 games. Returning to the Totton starting line up for this game were wingers Mike Gosney and Jon Davies who both started on the bench against Brackley. Salisbury loanee Charlie Knight retained his place at left back, and Ross Bottomley once more took up a central midfield role.
For the first 20 minutes of this game, you could have watched the cars go by on Salisbury Road or gazed at the flocks of crows and jackdaws flying overhead to their night-time roost over by Testwood Lakes.
Anything would have been more interesting to watch than whatever was going on out on the pitch. There were no real chances to speak of for either side and 90% of the play seemed to be going on around the halfway line.
Eventually I had something worth noting down. Ben Thackeray was found with an excellent ball over the defence and the Banbury striker took control of the ball before smashing it into the side netting.
As it turned out, the linesman had raised his flag for offside so it wouldn't have counted if it had gone the right side of the post.
On 27 minutes Totton should really have taken the lead. Mike Gosney was put through on goal by Mark Osman and tried to place his shot in the far corner but the ball went across goal and wide of the post.
With half an hour played, a Banbury cross was headed clear by Jamie Whisken as far as Josh Cole 30 yards out and his first time shot was well wide of the goal.
Totton finally broke the deadlock in the 36th minute. A free kick into the box was headed down by Osman for Michael Charles to control and turn on a sixpence before firing home to give Totton the lead.
Josh Blake was denied an equaliser just before the break by Dan Thomas who dived to his right to push the ball behind for a corner, which was headed wide for a goal kick.
Half time: AFC Totton 1-0 Banbury United
With the second half just 7 minutes old, Banbury capitalised on a defensive mix-up to grab an equaliser.
Jamie Whisken turned to pass the ball back to Thomas in the Totton goal but the pass was intercepted as Blake pounced to get to the ball before Thomas, rounded the keeper and slotted home.
5 minutes later a shot from the edge of the box from Osman was tipped over the bar by Banbury goalkeeper Andy Kemp who appeared to pull his hamstring in the process but carried on.
With 15 minutes remaining Totton regained the lead. A long ball forward fell to Charles who, with his back to goal, flicked the ball up and over his head for Jon Davies to race onto ahead of the defenders and take a touch before placing his shot into the bottom corner.
Shortly after the goal Davies came close again when his curling effort from the corner of the box was just high and wide of the far corner of the goal.
Banbury then wasted a golden opportunity to equalise when Totton lost possession out wide on the left and the ball was crossed into the box for Thackeray, but his shot was straight at Thomas.
With 5 minutes of normal time to go Totton thought they were home and dry. Gosney's corner was headed back across goal by Whisken to Charles who thought he'd scored but his close range header was cleared off the line by the head of Tommy Kinch.
Into added time and Dan Thomas pulled off another excellent save to deny Banbury a point. Substitute Joe Eyre went on a run to the edge of the box and pulled the trigger but Thomas scrambled across goal to get down and tip the ball behind for a corner which came to nothing.
Full time: AFC Totton 2-1 Banbury United
For the first 20 minutes you wouldn't have thought the rest of the game would be so end-to-end. It was a frantic finish to the game after Totton re-took the lead and Banbury may feel they deserved a point from it. Totton are now unbeaten in 4 games in all competitions and we have the chance to extend that further when we visit Barwell on Saturday for our longest away trip of the season. In the home fixture back in September, Barwell were masters of their own downfall. With the score level at 1-1, Barwell wasted copious amounts of time as they seemed happy to settle for a point. The referee played 8 minutes of injury time as a result and Barwell paid the price as Ryan Hill's free kick in the 7th minute of added time won the game for Totton. So yeah, 3pm, Barwell, this Saturday. See you there!
AFC Totton: Thomas, Hill, Whisken, Richardson, Knight, Davies (Campbell 87), Bottomley, Pettefer, Gosney, Osman (Jack 90), Charles (Sherborne 90). Unused subs: Baddeley, Brown.
Banbury United: Kemp, Coleman, Kinch, Dolman, Chilton, Howell (L. Cole 88), Williams, J. Cole, Blake (Fraser 88), Thackeray (Eyre 83), Polk. Unused subs: Lamb.
Totton: Charles (36), Davies (75)
Banbury: Blake (52)
Officials: Referee: Mr A Tranter. Assistants: Mr P Byfield & Mr J Rake.