Stags give survival hopes a shot in the arm

Daily Echo: Luke Roberts Luke Roberts

IF AFC Totton can carry Saturday’s form into the new year, their hopes of Calor Southern Premier Division survival may not yet be dead.

For the second time in December, Steve Riley’s young side showed plenty of promise on home soil as they came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw against fourth-placed Bideford on Saturday.

It was the perfect way to flush the previous week’s 6-0 pasting at St Neots out of their system and, with a bit more luck, the Stags could well have had another three-point haul to match their recent 3-1 home win over Chippenham.

“We did enough to win the game – even their manager and players thought so,” said boss Steve Riley.

“Bideford are a strong, direct side with two very good targetmen and they were a threat going forward. They put us under a lot of pressure at times in the first half, but our boys looked really solid and showed a lot of composure dealing with long throws and balls into the box.

“Once we’d got the equaliser for 2-2 we should have won it with the chances we had.

“We were on top right from the kick-off in the second half. We nullified their threat and, with Zac Mouland and Taylor Edwards up front, Luke Roberts down the right and James Jennings down the left, we did really well going forward.

“After losing 6-0, it would have been easy to have got into a rut against a good, strong side like Bideford, but this was a great way to bounce back.”

It was Totton who drew first blood on 25 minutes when Mouland ghosted in at the back stick to meet Lewis Ross’s excellent cross. Mouland shot from an acute angle and the ball went in off the goal keeper via the post.

Bideford responded with two goals in five minutes just after the half-hour. Stags goal keeper Joe McCormack was helpless to stop Graham Mercieca’s thunderous 20-yard strike before central defender Ben Gerring headed the visitors in front.

But Totton were in no mood to throw in the towel and, with Roberts creating havoc, emerged as the dominant force in the second half.

Their richly-deserved equaliser arrived on 65 minutes when Roberts was upended in the area and dual-registered Eastleigh wideman Jennings capped an impressive performance by coolly beating ’keeper Steve Oliver from the spot.

The Stags went on the dominate – their best chance falling to Mouland, who latched onto Edwards’ flick and lobbed the ’keeper only to have his shot cleared off the line.

“We got an equaliser and we should have won it with the chances we had,” reflected Riley.

“But we’ve got another home game against Burnham on Wednesday (3pm) and we need to keep up that level of performance and hopefully start the new year on a positive run.”

Totton remain second-to-bottom, nine points adrift of safety.

Saturday’s draw pulled them a further point clear of cellar-dwellers Bashley who were crushed 5-0 at Truro City. The Foresters face a stern New Year’s Day test at fifth-placed Poole Town (3pm).

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10:36am Sat 11 Jan 14

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