AFC TOTTON held their nerve in a seven-goal roller-coaster ride at Banbury United on Saturday to register only their fourth win of the Calor Southern Premier campaign.
Having gone in 3-2 up after what manager Steve Riley described as “an unbelievable first half”, the Stags extended their lead midway through the second before Banbury hit back late on to trim the lead to 4-3, writes WENDY GEE.
The win moves Totton up a place to third-to-bottom and, with Riley’s old club Bashley also victorious 1-0 at Arlesey, it means Bedford now prop up the table entering the last two months of the campaign.
The Stags are still 19 points shy of 20th-placed safety but, with Saturday’s win coming on top of last weekend’s 2-2 home draw with St Neots, they at least have some hope to cling to.
“It’s a massive ask,” admitted Riley. “But we’ve got to hope that we can win some more games and those around us drop points.
“While it’s mathematically possible to stay up, everyone needs to keep digging in and getting points on the board.
“That’s what we did against Banbury. We’ve played very well in games this season and come away with nothing. But today was all about being solid, workmanlike and resilient. It was a real thriller and probably a better game for the neutral than both sets of managers!”
The excitement kicked in instantly as Banbury raced ahead with just 14 seconds on the clock – Aaron Morgan’s shot hitting the bar and falling for Ade Talabi to head home.
But Luke Roberts equalised little more than a minute later and by the eighth minute Totton were 2-1 up thanks to on-loan AFC Bournemouth winger Harrison Gilkes coolly lobbing the ’keeper.
Gilkes – son of former Reading wideman and ex-Saints loanee, Michael – turned provider on 14 minutes, whipping in a cross for fellow Cherries youngster Lewis Lindsay to head the visitors into a 3-1 lead.
“We missed a couple of one-on-ones at that point which would have killed the game, but then Banbury played a nothing ball in behind our defence and their lad (Kynan Isaac) has scored,” said Riley.
“At half-time myself and (assistant) Chris Ferrett said to make sure we were ruthless in the second half. We wanted a hard-working team effort - and we got it.”
Gilkes was again the creator as Totton made it 4-2 on 68 minutes. This time the youngster cut the ball back from the byline for Zac Mouland to slot under the ’keeper.
“With a minute left on the clock Banbury made it 4-3 (Wayne Blossom) but that was about their only effort of the second half,” said Riley. “It was an important result for us, particularly with Bashley winning, and we look forward to a big game down there (tomorrow night).
“We had some players sat on the bench against Banbury – Lewis Ross, Chris Onoufriou and James Jennings – who have been regulars in the side, so there’s good competition for places and we’ve got a full squad available.
“Nathaniel Sherborne came on and got some more minutes under his belt (after long-term injury) and he came out with a good line afterwards, reminding us that we’re unbeaten in the league since he returned!”