A 37th-MINUTE Ben Wood strike sentenced AFC Totton to their second away defeat in five days at Frome Town on Saturday.
But, once again, Stags boss Steve Riley felt his improving young side were short-changed by a glaring refereeing oversight.
Last Tuesday at Poole Town he was furious at play being waved on in the build-up to Justin Bennett’s second goal of the night, despite a challenge that left midfielder Liam Gilbert with a torn sock and bleeding ankle.
It was a similar story at Frome on Saturday with Riley convinced Liam Hubbard had been wrestled off the ball in the chase for Ricky Hulbert’s pass, leaving Wood free to score the winner.
Reflecting on Totton’s unlucky 1-0 defeat, Riley said: “Once again a big decision has gone against us. “I hate talking about referees, but it is frustrating.
“The ref has let play go on even though their lad’s pushed Liam Hibberd to the floor. “The ref said it was shoulder-to-shoulder, but the lad’s got his arm round the back of Liam and muscled him to the ground. It was a stonewall free kick.”
Deserved For all his disappointment about the result, Riley was once again encouraged by Totton’s performance.
“We deserved to get something from the game,” he said. “Taylor Edwards has hit the post and Luke Roberts had the follow-up blocked and Alex Moth has rounded the keeper and shot from an acute angle and Frome have cleared it off the line.
“We changed the system a couple of times and had good chances to equalise, but we just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net.”
It was the fourth clean sheet in a row for Frome and Riley admitted: “You can see why. They’ve got quite a resilient defence.
“That’s two games in a row we’ve lost but the positive is that, once again, we’ve competed right to the end.”
With just ten league games to go – starting at home to Burnham tomorrow (Tuesday) – third-to-bottom Totton are still 16 points shy of Southern Premier Division safety. “We’ve come a long way, but maybe a bit too late,” admitted Riley. “If we’d had this squad and experience in October we could have been in the safe zone by now, but we’ll keep trying to pick up points.”
Frome tonight (Monday) travel to Poole Town who kept their play-off chase going with a 1-0 home win over Truro City on Saturday – Carl Preston bagging the 16th-minute decider.