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Stags stung by a late leveller
Kettering Town have taken some right old hammerings in the Southern Premier Division this season.
But AFC Totton boss Steve Riley is not a greedy man.
Having seen his side pummel the Poppies 4-0 at the Testwood Stadium in mid-January, he would have been content with an ugly 1-0 win in Saturday’s return match at Corby.
But after taking a 76th minute lead through Ryan Hill, the Stags were pegged back to 1-1 five minutes from time, denying them an elusive away-day victory.
“An ugly 1-0 win would have been nice, but these games are never easy,” said Riley, right.
“You go and play the bottom-of-the-league side and people automatically expect you to get three points, but it doesn’t work like that.
“Kettering are fighting for their lives and they’ve brought new players in. It was a hard game.”
Had Totton made the most of their early first-half chances, it might have been a different story.
Despite losing wideman Jono Davies to a badly gashed leg three minutes in, they weren’t short on creativity, but James Coutts and Stefan Brown sent chances over.
In between, Totton’s Ross Casey held Lewis Wilson’s spectacular overhead kick and the young ’keeper did well again on the half-hour to deal with the onrushing Louis Hamilton.
Totton soon regained the upper hand and on 39 minutes Brown’s header from Gillespie’s floated cross looked to be heading goalwards before Poppies defender Henry Eze cleared.
Brown then went close again from eight yards but keeper Michael Quirke pushed his shot behind.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Totton had a lucky escape when Kettering missed a penalty.
Hill clipped on-loan Northampton striker Lewis Wilson’s heel but, to the Stags’ relief, Jamie Griffiths’ spot-kick was more like a rugby conversion.
With 20 minutes remaining Casey made his only mistake, fumbling Wilson’s shot, but Baily Cargill scrambled the loose ball to safety.
And it was Totton who broke the deadlock when Cargill was fouled on the left edge of the area, leaving Hill to blast home one of his trademark free kicks.
But, with five minutes remaining, the visitors allowed Nathan Hicks to run unchallenged into the area and slam a low shot beyond Casey’s reach.
It almost got worse for the Stags, but skipper Carl Pettefer cleared Eze’s header off the line.
“It’s disappointing, but we’ve got to try and take the positives from it – we didn’t get beat,” said Riley.
“We probably played better at Stourbridge, Barwell and Hitchin than we did today, but we came away with nothing.
“The players looked tired and rightly so. We’ve had some hard, physical games.
“Losing Jono Davies early was a blow. We didn’t have Mike Gosney (quad injury) either and they’re both players who make a difference.”
The result leaves Totton 12th, ten points outside the play-off zone.
Tomorrow (Tuesday, 7.45pm) they want a sizeable Testwood Stadium crowd behind them when they entertain AFC Bournemouth in the Hampshire FA Senior Cup semi-final.