AFC TOTTON’S lack of strength in depth caught up with them in Saturday’s 3-2 home defeat by Banbury.
Until now, the Stags have had the knack of soothing their away-day ills with rousing results at the Testwood Stadium.
But after letting slip a 3-2 lead in the dying minutes of Tuesday’s 3-3 home draw against Arlesey, Totton this time contrived to throw away a two-goal advantage before succumbing to only their second home league defeat of the season.
Going into stoppage time, it looked as if they would at least hang on for a point. But the 308 home crowd were stunned when Kynan Isaac did well to keep the ball in at the by-line before cutting back for Michael Hopkins to steal a late winner.
With first-choice goalkeeper Gareth Barfoot suspended, winger Mike Gosney still troubled by injury and skipper Carl Pettefer kept away by family business, Totton’s wafer-thin squad was stretched to the limit.
Manager Steve Riley admitted he felt for his players.
“We’ve been asking them to do a lot and, unlike other clubs, we haven’t been able to bring fresh legs in,” he said.
“The squad’s been tested over the last few weeks and it’s been tough on the players both mentally and physically.
“There are tired minds out there and when you’re playing Tuesdays and Saturdays every week it tests you.
“I can understand fans getting annoyed about results, but ask anyone who knows their football and they will tell you that it’s really hard at this level to perform week in, week out.
“You get to the stage where the players are drained and they need a rest, but we can’t do that and it showed today. There was no spark.
“But no one goes out wanting to lose and I feel for the lads. I’ve got nothing but praise for what they’ve put in this season.”
The Stags had made a flying start when, after just 70 seconds, keeper Warren Carter fumbled Baily Cargill’s cross and Stefan Brown stabbed home.
That lead was doubled in controversial circumstances on 20 minutes after Ryan Hill had been fouled near the right touchline.
Cargill’s free-kick was headed goalwards by Jamie Whisken and Carter dived to claim the spinning ball. After consulting his assistant, referee Linden adjudged the ball to have crossed the line.
Isaac halved the deficit on 37 minutes with a fine angled drive which flew past Barfoot’s young understudy Ross Casey into the far corner.
Banbury levelled on the hour when Albi Skendi skipped through the home defence and scored from a tight angle.
With ten minutes left, Totton had a golden opportunity to get back in front but Brown scooped over after good work by Richard Gillespie. It was a miss Hopkins would make them live to regret.