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Jamal can lift Totton spirits
6:00am Monday 21st October 2013 in Sport
LIVELY Saints loanee Jamal Branker brought a ray of sunshine to an otherwise gloomy afternoon for AFC Totton.
The 18-year-old winger, pictured, from Reading is described as “effervescent” by his Premier League parent club, whom he joined as an under-ten.
He certainly injected some fizz into Totton for Saturday’s FA Trophy tie against Clevedon Town, but it wasn’t enough to spare the Stags a 2-1 first qualifying round exit against their Southern One South & West visitors.
Having dominated the early stages with George Branford, Alex Moth and Luke Roberts all squandering chances, Totton fell behind to Clevedon’s first real chance of the game with 28 minutes gone.
The Seasiders earned a free-kick 25 yards out and Ollie Barnes stepped up to slam it home off the underside of the crossbar.
Stags goalkeeper Joe McCormack prevented further damage with a brilliant stop from Ross McNab just before the break, but the same player beat him with a free header two minutes into the second half.
Branker hit the post, Roberts glanced a header wide and lively substitute Taylor Edwards tested ’keeper Danny Greaves as Totton desperately tried to get a foothold in the game.
But it was stoppage time before they finally halved the deficit – star man Branker crossing for Nathan Hurst to net a towering header.
“We’ve got Jamal for a month from Saints Academy and he’s a good lad,” explained manager Steve Riley.
“He’s like a young Raheem Sterling from Liverpool. He’s got tricks and he’s a clever player and he did well today.
“We scored from one of his crosses and, really, we should have got more.”
Saturday’s was Totton’s ninth straight defeat in all competitions and the disappointment for Riley was that, with a touch more composure, it could have been avoided.
“For the first 25 minutes we had them on the rails and piled on a lot of pressure, but couldn’t get a goal,” he said.
“Then, without having been under too much pressure ourselves, we’re 2-0 down with 47 minutes on the clock “Well done to Clevedon for frustrating us. They defended well, they really did, getting in blocks and putting bodies on the line.
“They rode their luck at times, whereas we had no luck at all. “Once again I can’t fault our boys for effort and enthusiasm, but we let ourselves down at key moments.
“We get into good situations in the final third, but we’re rushing things. We’ve got to learn to be more relaxed.
“Alex Moth had a great chance from five yards that he should have done better with. He said he got a little nudge from the defender, but he should have scored.”
With Poole Town (Steve Devlin, penalty) due a Trophy replay tomorrow after a 1-1 draw at Frome, Totton’s scheduled league trip to Tatnam has been postponed.
It means Riley can field some of his first-teamers in the Russell Cotes Cup at home to Hampshire Premier League outfit Colden Common hoping for a confidence-boosting result.
“We need to get ourselves onto a winning streak, no matter what competition it’s in,” he said. “We need something positive to happen to give everyone a lift.”
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