STEVE Riley has his fingers tightly crossed that AFC Totton may yet be handed a ‘get out of jail free card’ after their brave attempt to escape relegation was finally halted at Stourbridge on Saturday.
The Stags travelled to the West Midlands knowing only a win could possibly keep alive their faint hope of climbing out of the Calor Southern Premier bottom three.
In the event they lost 3-0 to the promotion-chasing Glassboys but, with Chippenham winning, it transpired that even a maximum three-point haul wouldn’t have been enough to save them.
Totton are, though, guaranteed to finish third to bottom and manager Riley’s big hope now is that there may be a reprieve on the cards as there has been in numerous other seasons.
He said: “We were hanging on by a thread and, as things turned out, results went against us in any case, so we wouldn’t have been able to catch anyone.
“But we heard today that if Stourbridge don’t get promoted this season they could be going into the Northern Premier League or, if they do win the play-offs, they’d be going to the Conference North.
“On that basis, I don’t know if there would be a chance of a reprieve.
“Knowing my luck, there won’t, but I’m told that over the last nine seasons the club that finishes third to bottom has never been relegated. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Louis Harris (34 mins), Ben Billingham (58 mins) and Netan Sensara (80 mins) sealed Totton’s fate and Riley was disappointed with the nature of the goals conceded.
He said: “Stourbridge are a good side and Billingham’s a top player, but they didn’t hurt us with good build-up play. Two of the goals were from corners that we didn’t deal with and the second one started when we lost possession cheaply. Billingham’s gone on a mazy run, played a one-two and hit a shot which he didn’t connect with properly and it span in, wrong-footing our goalkeeper Steve Mowthorpe.
“It’s a sad day for the club, but it wasn’t for want of trying.
“On the balance of play I thought we deserved something out of the game.
“You’ve got to applaud what the lads have done over the last couple of months. The results we’ve had gave us a bit of hope which just goes to show the big hearts the boys have got.
“Whatever happens their efforts this season will stand them in good stead for next year.”
Totton have just two games remaining – at home to relegated Bedford Town on Saturday and away to Burnham on Easter Monday (3pm).
Stourbridge’s win keeps Poole Town seven points outside the play-off zone with two games in hand on the Glassboys.
They kept hope alive with a 1-0 win at St Albans, settled by a 58th-minute winner from former Blackfield & Langley winger Ekow Elliott.
Rock-bottom Bashley, meanwhile, ended their home campaign on a low note, caned 7-0 by Biggleswade Town. To add to their misery, goalkeeper Nic Jones was red-carded at 3-0 for denying a goalscoring opportunity.