AFC TOTTON boss Steve Riley has extended his whole-hearted thanks to veteran goalkeeper Joe McCormack for helping the Stags through a difficult first half of the season.

The Isle of Wight-based stopper has been a massive support to Riley as he strives to steer a young, inexperienced side through the often choppy waters of the Calor Southern Premier Division.

In recent weeks McCormack has stepped aside, allowing former Saints Academy youngster Steve Mowthorpe to take centre stage following his arrival from Sydenhams Premier champions Blackfield & Langley.

But Riley, pictured below, is indebted to ex-Newport IoW and Salisbury ’keeper McCormack for the way he has stood by the Testwood Stadium club. “Steve Mowthorpe’s come in and is doing a good job – he’s one for the future,” Riley explained.

“But Joe’s been brilliant for us and I’d like to thank him for everything he’s done.

“He’s still registered with us and I’m sure he would help us out again if needed. We’ve left it as an open-ended arrangement.

“Everyone at the club really appreciates the level of commitment Joe’s put in at Totton. He’s a great lad to have around the club.”

With Saturday’s home game against Redditch United wiped out by the weather, the Stags’ two new loan signings, Harrison Gilkes and Lewis Lindsay, have yet to make an appearance more than a week after agreeing one-month deals from AFC Bournemouth.

Weather permitting, the Stags are due to travel to Graham Rix’s AFC Portchester in the Russell Cotes Cup quarter-final tonight (Tuesday) followed by a league trip to Hungerford Town on Saturday.

With the addition of midfielders Liam Gilbert and Caleb Porter also strengthening the squad, Riley can’t wait to get going again after a weather-hit start to the month.

“Looking at the squad, it is the strongest we have had all season,” he said. “The new lads have trained with us and will bring quality and a competitive edge to the team, and that’s exactly what we need at the moment.”

With 16 points now separating second-to-bottom Totton from safety it’s a big ask for the young Stags to survive.

But Riley insisted: “Mathematically we are still in with a shout.

“We have to get games played and start picking up points.

“We are all up for the challenge and hopefully we can turn a corner and get some wins that will lift everyone’s confidence around the club.

“Looking around the team we have the strength in depth to deal with the midweek and weekend fixtures throughout February and March.”

Bottom-of-the-table Bashley – home to Chippenham Town tonight – have welcomed in defender Luke Ansell on a dual signing from Totton & Eling.

Ansell made his Bash debut – along with Bermuda international Taurean Manders – in Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Stourbridge.