FORMER Saints Academy goalkeeper Steve Mowthorpe was labelled “outstanding” by manager Steve Riley after impressing on his AFC Totton debut in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Hitchin Town.

Mowthorpe, recently signed from Blackfield & Langley, stepped in to replace the suspended Joe McCormack and took to Southern Premier football like a duck to water.

“Steve did really well,” said Riley. “His distribution was exceptional.

“What I like about the lad is that he’s come from Blackfield to play for Totton for nothing so that he can play at the best level he can. You’ve got to give him credit for that.

“When you look around the local scene, a lot of players are playing beneath themselves, but Steve’s not. He’s not a Wessex League goalkeeper, you could see that today.”

Although the Stags remain deep in trouble, second-to-bottom of the table, they have lost just one of their last four league games.

And while Hitchin had much of the territorial advantage, Totton’s young braves were prepared to stand up and be counted.

“We had good shape, we were organised and disciplined and our workrate was phenomenal,” said Riley.

“There’s a lot happening off the field at the club, but my concern is the football and hopefully this will give us confidence going into tonight’s trip to St Albans.”

Totton’s Alex Moth broke the deadlock on 68 minutes with a deflected shot that crept past wrong-footed goalkeeper Tahj Bell.

But the lead vanished three minutes later when Matt Lench lobbed Mowthorpe.

“They took their goal really well,” conceded Riley. “It was a great ball in from the left that got behind Drew Bridge and their lad got to it just before Steve Mowthorpe could and dinked in a good finish.

“It was a heavy pitch and our lads were absolutely knackered and Hitchin had us under pressure for the last 15 minutes.

“I wouldn’t say we held out because Hitchin didn’t have many chances, but they had a lot of possession. But our back line were solid and got blocks in.

“Everyone competed and played well and a draw was probably a fair result.”

Riley himself deserved credit for not only managing the team but also filling in for the absent kitman, physio and goalkeeping coach who couldn’t make it to Hertfordshire.

“Myself, Chris Ferrett (assistant manager) and the chairman Andy Straker did the kit, I warmed up Steve Mowthorpe and also did the strapping and massage. In between I managed the side!” he laughed.

Totton should travel with much the same squad to St Albans tonight. McCormack is back available, but the Stags will need to check on Ryan Hill’s nagging hip problem.

The gap between Totton and bottom club Bashley has shrunk to four points following the Foresters’ 2-1 win at Frome Town – only their second league victory of the season.

Manny Soetan, Bash’s recent signing from Blackfield, crossed for Charlie Davis to open the scoring on the hour and then skipped round the ’keeper to double the lead himself. Ricky Hulbert bagged Frome’s stoppage-time reply. Bash host Corby Town tomorrow.

Poole Town – away to Bideford tomorrow – are a point shy of the play-offs after drawing 1-1 at fifth-to-bottom St Neots.

Highly-rated defender Will Spetch rescued the Dolphins with a last-gasp leveller after Lewis Hilliard had given the hosts a 27th-minute lead.