FA Carlsberg Vase

IAN Robinson never ventures out to watch Southern League football but he has a sneaking suspicion that Chippenham Town will not look out of place if they achieve their goal of Dr Martens status next season.

For the second year running the AFC Totton boss has been left to ponder the make-up of the non-league Pyramid after being bulldozed out of the FA Carlsberg Vase by physically stronger, wealthier and better-supported opponents.

Last year the Stags made it to the last 16 only to crash out 5-0 at Bedlington Terriers' small but intimidating Welfare Ground and on Saturday they were made to feel like the guests at their own Vase party as some 400 noisy Chippenham fans descended on Testwood Park complete with drums, blue wigs, a tickertape welcome for their team and a vice-chairman who sings like Elvis Presley.

"Is all this on the same par as the Jewson Wessex League? Well, you tell me," said Robinson, as he struggled to hear his own voice amid the hubbub in the bar afterwards.

"They're a big, strong, physical side and I'd imagine that what I saw out there today was probably closer to Dr Martens than Wessex football.

"We've had a great day with a 511 crowd, but most of those were from Chippenham which is hard to cope with. The first 20 minutes was our poorest phase of play and I think that's because some of our players were intimidated by the crowd and the atmosphere."

It was a testament to the hard work of the Totton defence - and ex-Saint Kevin Murphy in particular - that last year's defeated Wembley finalists led by only a 23rd minute Simon Charity strike at half-time.

It wasn't until the second half that the jittery Stags calmed their nerves and got the ball down on the deck but, when their best chance came their way on 63 minutes, Stuart Ritchie was unable to finish after John Rowley had cut the ball back from the by-line.

Ominously Chippenham began to step it up again with 20 minutes remaining. After a great save by goalkeeper Wayne Shaw and a goalline clearance from Kevin Reacord, the Western Leaguers twisted the knife on 83 minutes when panicking Totton defender Robbie Walker got the fatal last touch on Ian Murphy's indirect free kick.