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Stags ready to crash play-off party
WITH ten wins and two draws from 13 league games at Testwood Park, AFC Totton’s home record is not far short of perfection.
Now, with his seventh-placed side knocking on the door of the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-offs, manager Steve Riley wants the Stags to prove that their appetite for promotion is just as hearty on the road.
Totton head for lowly Hitchin Town tomorrow having lost eight out of 13 away from home this term – a record they must improve upon if they are to make the play-offs for a second season running.
But as they board the bus for Hertfordshire, team spirit will sky high after a week of sparkling derby success on home soil.
And that was followed by a quite remarkable 5-2 Premier Division scoreline against Dorset visitors Weymouth on Tuesday.
“The game had everything,” said Riley. “It was an incident-packed, good old-fashioned local derby.
“It probably wasn’t a 5-2 game, but in the second half especially I couldn’t have asked for more.
“We went in 2-1 down at half-time having not played that well in difficult conditions. Gilly’s (Richard Gillespie’s) goal looked offside and Weymouth went mad which set the standard for a feisty encounter.
“For Weymouth’s second goal, James Coutts went to clear the ball and had his legs taken from behind but the ref didn’t see it.
“But we regrouped at half-time and showed more quality in the second half.
“The stadium went quiet when I took Mike Gosney off, but he’d taken a knock on his quad and his body language wasn’t good.
“We went 3-5-2, Ryan Hill equalised with a tremendous free-kick against his old club, and then we had a bit of luck when Luke Whitley, who’d gone on for Gos, whipped in a first-time cross which hit the top corner.
“The fourth one was started and finished by Couttsy and then Baily Cargill’s lashed home a great finish for the fifth.
“We’ve had three local derbies in eight days and won all of them. You couldn’t ask for better than that Tuesday to Tuesday!”
“Now we’ve got to go to Hitchin and prove we can do the job up there.”
Prior to Weymouth’s visit, Riley had felt four points from the next two games would be a decent return.
But he said: “I know that if we do our jobs properly, stay mentally tough and carry on the sort of performance we produced at Bideford (a 1-1 draw) we’re capable of getting three points tomorrow. As long as we stay tight defensively, we’ll always score goals.
“This is a tough, old league and there’s a long way to go yet.
“But if we can keep our home record going and improve our away record we’ll be in with a shout of the play-offs.”
Gosney should be fit tomorrow, but Chris Mason faces another week out with a knee problems. Striker/midfielder Dave Allen is due an X-ray today to see how well his broken foot bone is healing.