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Stags' play-off hopes look over
AFC TOTTON’S faint hopes of reaching the Evo-Stik Southern Premier play-offs seem all but exhausted.
The Stags’ dismal away form stubbornly refuses to budge and Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at St Albans City left them devoid of a win from their last 12 matches on the road.
Their travel sickness is in stark contrast to their awesome home form which has brought 12 wins and three draws out of 17 league matches at the Testwood Stadium.
“The 3-0 scoreline is hard to take because we had a lot of possession and good play,” reflected manager Steve Riley.
“Our home form is phenomenal, but over the course of the season, we don’t seem to have learned away from home.
“We’ve lacked organisers and we’ve not been ruthless enough.
“If you go a goal behind, you’ve got to give yourselves a chance by making sure you don’t concede again, but that didn’t happen today. Collectively our defending has got to be better.
“If you lose concentration at this level, you get punished.”
Seventh-placed St Albans wasted no time keeping their play-off hopes alive, racing ahead after just four minutes.
The unmarked Greg Ngoyi needed only the most delicate of touches to steer the ball past young Ross Casey, who kept the shirt despite Stags No1 Gareth Barfoot finishing his five-match suspension. Ryan Hill had a free-kick pushed away by home ’keeper Nick Jupp as Totton looked for a swift reply, but they found themselves two down on 16 minutes when Chris Henry bundled home Josh Urquhart’s cross.
The Stags responded with two good efforts, but Jupp pushed behind Baily Cargill’s low, angled volley and, from the resultant corner, Luke Roberts shot just wide. But Saints continued to look dangerous on the break and Casey had to race off his line to foil Ngoyi.
Totton’s main threat came from set-pieces with both Cargill and Hill going close from free-kicks. Hill and Chris Mason were replaced by Luke Whitley and fit-again winger Mike Gosney at the break and the early signs looked good as Totton took the game to their hosts. But, after Brad Wadkins and Nyogi had fired a couple of warning shots, St Albans went three up on 57 minutes when Wadkins converted James Comley’s corner. After Stefan Brown had fired inches past the upright, Totton boss Steve Riley made his final throw of the dice, replacing top gun Richard Gillespie with Craig Feeney.
Dangerman Ngoyi had the ball in the back of the net again, only to have it ruled out offside, and both ’keepers saw late action with Jupp reacting quickly to clear the danger from Brown and Casey blocking sub David Keenleyside’s effort with his legs.
“The lads are disappointed,” admitted Riley. “We played well in the first half but lacked cutting edge and, whenever we got opportunities in front of goal, their keeper was there.
“I didn’t think St Albans were three goals better than us, but we were naïve.
“We need put this behind us and move on.”
Tenth-placed Totton return to the happy hunting ground of the Testwood Stadium on Saturday to face lowly Chippenham Town.