CRAIG Feeney strode away with his second man-of-the- match award in the space of six whirlwind days after continuing his predatory scoring streak in the FA Cup.
But though the 22-year-old is very much the shining light for AFC Totton right now, even he had to admit that this time the celebratory bottle of champagne belonged elsewhere.
For while Feeney got his timing just right to claim his ninth goal of the season, subduing a lively Gillingham side on the brink of half-time, the Stags could already have been two goals behind.
The fact that they weren’t was down to some outstanding goalkeeping from ex-Saints academy stopper Steve Mowthorpe who twice denied Gills No9 Steve Smith – including once from the penalty spot – to lay the bedrock for a 2-0 preliminary round win over the Western Premier Division visitors.
Feeney and Mowthorpe have followed similar paths in recent years, first play¬ ing together at neighbouring Totton & Eling before being reunited at Blackfield & Langley last term.
“Mowy deserved the man-of-the- match award,” Fawley-based Feeney admitted.
“He’s kept a clean sheet and saved a penalty, so you wonder what he’s got to do to get it!
“Gillingham came out of the blocks so quickly and they had a clear chance before the penalty.
“We’ve been with each other a good few years now and Mowy’s probably got the longest kick in the league, which is a good outlet for us.
“He was our best player today and also, when we had a shaky 20 minutes against Sholing, he kept us in it.”
Not too many people in the 280- strong crowd would have denied Feeney another bottle of bubbly, however, such is the confidence his goals are giving this thriving, young Stags side.
There were times in the first half when Steve Riley’s South & West leaders looked in danger of being humbled by the Toolstation out¬ fit, who arrived at the Testwood Stadium sitting third to bottom of their division.
Mowthorpe was called upon as early as the opening minute to keep out Will Pike’s close-range strike before Drew Bridge saved the Stags with a goalline clearance from Nick Hewlett’s header.
Mowthorpe then rode to the rescue again, first thwarting Smith one-on-one before spring¬ ing to his right to save the striker’s penalty, award¬ ed for handball against Chris Onoufriou, with 26 minutes gone.
Danger averted, Totton got their noses in front with a bit of Feeney magic a minute into first-half stoppage time.
Gillingham were undone by a long ball down the middle which was helped on by Zac Mouland. Feeney did the rest, skilfully bypassing defender Dan Barber before sliding home another unerring fin¬ ish.
Skipper Rob Flooks made the game safe for the Stags with six minutes to play.
James Jennings was fouled by fellow sub Dan Cox on the left and mid¬ fielder Liam Gilbert deliv¬ ered a deep free kick to the back post where for¬ mer Fawley and Gosport centre-back Flooks climbed to net one of his speciality headers.
AFC Totton: Steve Mowthorpe, Liam Hibberd, Andrew Bridge, Chris Onoufriou, Rob Flooks, Liam Gilbert, Jamie Bulpitt, Kyle O’Brien (James Jennings, 72), Craig Feeney (Taylor Edwards, 88), Zac Mouland (Nathaniel Sherborne, 60), Nathan Hurst. Subs: (not used) Ellis White, Conor Thorne, Sam House, Jack Nicholson.
Ref: J Paterson.