MATCH REPORTS DECEMBER

Saturday 18th December                   Tooting and Mitcham United 1  Westfield 0

 

Mike Dixon’s headed goal, midway through the first half, was enough to secure a welcome three points and make it three wins from four league games to end the year’s home fixtures on a positive note.

 

Both of these sides had been expected to be in the promotion shake-up when the season started, yet both had struggled to the extent that this was a real relegation six-pointer come start of play.

 

Westfield settled better early on, with the pony-tailed Tayshan Hayden-Smith (reminding older fans of former Italian star Roberto Baggio) orchestrating proceedings and spraying some nice passes around the pitch. However, there was little cutting edge to the visitor’s pretty play, and the home defence were untroubled as Cory Walters-Wright, Nikolai Krokhin and Nathan Daly looked an impressively solid unit.

 

But Westfield stepped up the pace, and began to look more threatening. Sheridan Campbell fired a shot over the bar when well placed, and Ollie Pain had to be alert to block a free-kick from Callum Abraham-Barlow. From this latter move, the ball ran free and Walters-Wright was thankfully in position to clear from the goal-line as Sam Evans raced in.

 

Pain was called into action again shortly afterward, as Afolobe Soyemi-Oloiade outpaced Walters-Wright and fired in a shot from a tight angle which Pain turned behind for a corner, which came to nothing.

 

Tooting had shown little in attack so far, but began to make inroads as the half progressed. Daniel Williams, lively as ever, outpaced his marker but was crowded out by a covering defender as he shaped to shoot, the ball being deflected into the arms of keeper Callum Backhurst.

 

Shortly after, Mike Dixon seized onto a Jordan Clarke through ball and showed a cool head to take the ball round Backhurst; once again, however, a covering defender had made up the ground to deflect Dixon’s shot out for a corner.

 

Williams and Dixon linked up again, with Dixon’s long-range effort not troubling Backhurst, but he more than made amends just before the half-hour, as Krokhin headed out of defence and a surging run and cross by Billy Brown was headed home by the powerful striker.

 

We breathed a sigh of relief just before half-time, as IK Hill played a defence splitting pass through to the well-placed Abraham-Barlow, but he snatched at his effort and put it wide.

 

HT : T&MU 1 Westfield 0

 

The visitors started the second half in much the same vein with which they began the first, and Pain was once again called into action early on, getting a good touch to Campbell’s effort which looked to be sneaking in at the far post, and pushing it round the upright.

 

Pain saved again from the same player shortly after, as Campbell looked to finish a sweeping move started by Hayden-Smith and carried on by Hill.

 

It was desperate defending now as Westfield really looked to turn the screw but, for once, the Tooting back five were up to the task with Krokhin winning everything in the air and Walters-Wright having another impressive outing as he beds into the side. Both were benefitting from the experienced head of Nathan Daly who was marshalling the defence superbly at this stage.

 

We were looking to hold onto what we had, and the home attacks became sporadic as Westfield dominated possession, but they were still doing very little with it and Tooting might have extended the lead on a couple of occasions; substitute Shakeel Morris showed good footwork to create an opening, but his effort was weak and didn’t trouble Backhurst. Then Jordan Clarke worked his way into the box, twisted and turned as he looked to make room for a shot but the Westfield defence deflected his eventual strike wide.

 

With time ticking away, Hayden-Smith floated a curler toward the top corner, but Pain took it comfortably and that proved to be the last chance for the visitors to take anything from the game as Pain cemented his man-of-the-match award with the save to seal the points.

 

T&MU : Pain, Daly, Krokhin, Walters-Wright, Bassett, Clarke, Ndiaye, Ouaret Sorr (Bangura-Williams 56”), Dixon, Williams, Brown (Morris 65”).

SUBS NOT USED : Hamlin, Foley, Orimolusi.

Attendance : 216

Saturday 11th December                   Thatcham Town 0 Tooting and Mitcham United 1

 

The Terrors secured back-to-back league wins, on a murky day in the Berkshire countryside, to give us some breathing space over those teams below us and send the travelling hordes home happy.

 

In truth, it was always going to be an afternoon where pretty football would be at a premium on such a surface, but our boys showed grit and fighting spirit that bodes well for the immediate future as we look to haul ourselves away from danger and into the top half of the table.

 

This result sees us leapfrog our hosts, who started the day two places and two points above us, and sets us up nicely for the hectic festive period.

 

Despite the conditions, there were a lot of positives to be taken from the afternoon - and a lot of boxes were ticked in the process : three points - check. Penalty scored - check. Clean sheet : check.

 

That last one may well prove to be the most important - it was our first of the season and emphasises that Ollie Pain is settling well into his role as the fifth goalkeeper we have used this campaign; hopefully he will be able to cement the position as his own, and bring some much needed stability to the position behind the back line - arguably the most important on the pitch.

 

On this afternoon, he wasn’t called into action that often as the boys in front of him controlled much of the play and showed a solidity that has been lacking in recent times; but Pain showed some good handling of a greasy, slippery ball - taking corners and crosses with a composure that can only have radiated out to those around him.

 

Tooting started in confident fashion, and carved out the first opening of note just a few minutes in; Zaid Ouaret Sorr, growing in confidence with every first-team outing, took a nice pass from Nathan Gordon, got away from his marker down the left and fired a dangerous cross back into the penalty area; Mike Dixon got a firm strike on the ball, but it was a bit too close to Jack Hopwood and the keeper took it comfortably.

 

Shortly after, Hopwood had to be alert to leave his area and head clear when another through ball from Gordon threatened, but Thatcham then had a chance of their own as Lamin Ceesay and Daniel Fosu combined to set Nathan Jones through on goal, but the home midfielder dragged his shot wide of the target.

 

Billy Brown was, as usual, causing his marker all sorts of problems down the right flank, and he fed Daniel Williams whose shot from distance was well held by Hopwood. Still, the Terrors were carving out the more promising chances at this stage - with Ouaret Sorr almost forcing an own goal minutes later as a home defender very nearly scuffed his clearance into the net.

 

It looked like a goalless first half would be recorded, but as we moved into time added on, Ceesay tangled with Ouaret Sorr inside the area with the latter going down; the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot - to the consternation of the home defence - and Daniel Williams buried the kick to register his thirteenth goal of the season and a lead that was well deserved.

 

HT : Thatcham T. 0 T&MU 1

 

The home side enjoyed a good spell of possession at the start of the second period, as they sought to cancel out our advantage. But the Tooting defence, marshalled superbly by Nathan Daly, held firm and Ollie Pain continued to handle the increasingly slippery ball well when called upon. As the game wore on, it was the visitors who looked more likely to add a second on the break if there was to be any further scoring in the game.

 

Indeed, the impressive Ouaret Sorr was staking his claim for a man-of-the-match performance as he twice threatened to give us the breathing space of a two goal cushion. Firstly, Billy Brown did superbly to take a loose pass off the toes of a Thatcham defender, powered into the box and smashed the ball across toward the far post; Ouaret Sorr had slipped on the greasy turf, but despite being on the deck he still managed to prod a shot goalwards but couldn’t get the power required to find a way past Hopwood.

 

Then, as the game entered the last twenty minutes, Mike Dixon flicked on a lovely through ball which Ouaret Sorr controlled, and slotted past the keeper for what seemed like a second goal. However, a questionable flag had been raised and the goal was disallowed for offside.

 

Dontai Stewart had replaced Williams, and he looked lively as he twice tested Hopwood from range, then bore down on the keeper in a one-on-one which the latter did well to block and keep his side in the match. It was to no avail though, as the referee finally put an end to proceedings and another welcome three points were confirmed.

 

T&MU : Pain, Gordon (Bassett 61”), Daly, Walters-Wright, Brown, Belford, Williams (Stewart 69”), Clarke, Krokhin, Dixon, Ouaret Sorr.

SUBS NOT USED : Hamlin, Ndiaye, Ceesay.

Attendance : 133

Saturday 4th December                   Tooting and Mitcham United 2  Chalfont St. Peter 1

Going into the fixture, Tooting and Mitcham United (the Terrors), were sitting one place above Chalfont St. Peter (the Saints), after a run of four straight defeats and winless at home since October 4th. Chalfont’s equally poor recent form meant both sides sat in 16th and 17th respectively and are currently engaged in a dogged relegation battle, this is the very definition of a six-pointer. Game On.

Not long after the referee eagerly blew his whistle, the Saints’ number nine unleashed a fearsome shot, which was successfully parried away for a corner kick; an already nervous crowd became noticeably more anxious. Fortunately, the corner was dealt with well by the Terrors’ defence, who then sought to turn defence into attack with number seven attempting a long overhead ball to the strikers.

The first affairs were cagey; unsurprising given the form of both sides. The ball bobbled frequently and often bounced from player to player without either side stringing several passes or more together. When they could, the Terrors tried another overhead ball to the strikers, and, although amounting to nothing this time, this tactic would eventually pay dividends.

With tackles flying in left and right, and every player being constantly pressured whilst on the ball, a chance from a set piece would inevitably come; fortunately, this would fall to the Terrors: on the eighth minute, number four gets a strong head on a 30 yard free-kick crossed from the right hand side, but sees the ball flash agonisingly wide of the goalkeeper’s left hand post.

This excellent set piece was followed up by some equally-excellent last ditch defending: the Saints’ striker, seemingly through on goal two minutes later, had his shot blocked by a Terrors defender. The resulting deflection bounced around the box to another Saints player, who was crowded out, unable to get a shot on goal, and the ball was cleared by the uncompromising defence.

The 15th minute rolls around and number 10 whips a delicious cross into the box, only for there to be no one there to capitalise. Despite this, it is clear that the Terrors are becoming the dominant side in this game. Two consecutive corners ramp the pressure up further, stretching Chalfont’s set-piece defending capabilities.

Fortunately for the Terrors, the pressure and their set-piece prowess was too much for the Saints’ defence as number five scored an excellent header that Slabhead, Harry Maguire, would be proud of. 1-0 to Tooting and Mitcham; the balance is really in their favour.

Bar a frenzied goal-line clearance on the 20th minute, the Terrors were comfortably the best team of the two after the goal: the Chalfont ‘keeper came close to picking the ball out of his net for the second time in the half after number 9 narrowly missed the target, after a long throw-in took the defence out the game. Soon after, other passages of play culminated in a saved bicycle kick from number 11, and a low shot from number four after receiving a great pass from number 9.

At the other end, the Saints rarely troubled Tooting and Mitcham’s number 1 through a combination of astute defending and poor finishing from Chalfont St. Peter. Even in the moments that the Terrors’ number 1 was needed, he held the ball well after a sole longshot from the Saints.

 

HALF TIME - 1-0 TOOTING AND MITCHAM UNITED

The second half begins and the pattern continues: the Terrors dominating the play and creating excellent chances. Not long after the ref blows his whistle, the Terrors’ number 9 is put through on goal after a lovely overhead through ball, but is saved by the Saints’ ‘keeper.

However, the Terrors very nearly rued the chances that they had seen go astray as Chalfont’s number 11 received the ball on the edge of the box, swivelled excellently and unleashed a hard shot, which was fortunately directed straight at the Terrors’ ‘keeper.

The second half continued with some brilliant possession from the Terrors, who were working the ball excellently on the wings. With the wingers and strikers working in tandem, crosses fly into the box; one of these is headed away and breaks to number 15, who absolutely thumps the ball from 25 yards out, missing the target by a fraction of a hair to the keeper’s right hand post.

Tooting and Mitcham’s dominant spell led to another well-worked overhead through-ball to number 9, which was stopped excellently by Chalfont’s best player on the pitch. Surely it’s only a matter of time before the Terrors exploit this? And that they did: another pin-point through-ball puts number 9 through who finished fantastically under the ‘keeper to put the Terrors 2-0 up in the 73rd minute.

Defensively, the Terrors were more than matching Chalfont through the half; one particular spell of play seeing a Saints shot blocked and then rapidly smothered after the subsequent rebound to another Saints player.

Even the Saints’ goal had an element of luck to it: a collision between defender and goalkeeper bobbled perfectly to a Saints player, who was in the most fortunate position on the pitch and was able to tap the ball into the goal.

Whilst a mist of anxiety gripped the Terrors faithful, the players controlled the game excellently, running down the clock after winning fouls in prime locations through brilliant dribbling and some skills from number 17 that were almost certainly learnt from FIFA Street. The game finished 2-1 to Tooting and Mitcham United who moved up to 14th, three points off mid-table.