MATCH REPORTS AUGUST 2023
Horley Town 3 T&MU 1
Combined Counties League Premier Division (south) Monday 28 August 2023
Horley Town compounded the weekend misery by inflicting Tooting’s first league defeat of the season at the New Defence Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday.
It looks like a comprehensive victory for the home side, but was slightly flattering to them with the difference between the two teams being in finishing on the day, with the Terrors carving out plenty of chances to have got something out of the game.
Indeed, there was little indication of what was to come during a first period in which we hit wood twice, with Alex Penfold marshalling the defence superbly and winning everything in the air. This restricted them to only one clear chance which Cameron Gyeabour put wide when well placed to do better, shortly before half-time.
Tooting had looked in relative control, albeit without creating anything too clear-cut themselves; Hussein Siklawi tried his luck from long-range about fifteen minutes in, and saw his shot come back off the post. About ten minutes before half-time, a long-throw into the box from Sam Orisatoki was flicked on by Shawn Lyle and Shay Brennan’s header was tipped onto the bar by the home keeper.
But as the teams emerged for the second half, captain Alex Penfold was not with them. The ankle injury that had hindered his opening to the season had flared up again, leaving him unable to continue and - not coincidentally - the chances suddenly started to open up for the hosts.
It was still Tooting who looked the more likely early on in the half, though, and a lovely break from Kieran Campbell down the right saw him deliver a fine cross to the far post; Shay couldn’t quite get a touch on it but Shawn could, only to send his half volley wide with only the keeper to beat.
A lovely through-pass from Sol Patterson-Bohner found Shay collecting just inside the box, but he uncharacteristically couldn’t get it out from under his own feet and a home defender was able to crowd him out before he found a shooting opportunity; this proved costly as Horley took the lead with their first real attack of the half, Gyeabour getting clear of the defence and slotting past Tom Theobald to make amends for his earlier miss.
Horley grew in confidence, and Theo was now being kept busy for the first time in the match; one notable save saw him beating a low drive away down at his near-post to keep us in the game.
Tooting created chances, with Shay spurning another with a header, but Horley were dangerous now and Gyeabour added his second of the afternoon with a similar move that led to his first.
When Harry Mark curled in a superb free-kick late on, it seemed to put a gloss on the game that they didn’t deserve; Sid Dack’s well-taken consolation in injury-time at least gave us a goal to shout about on a frustrating day.
Selsey FC 2 T&MU 1
Isuzu FA Vase, Qualifying Round 1, Saturday 26 August 2023
The Terrors were on the wrong end of a cup shock, as Sussex League side Selsey dumped us out of the FA Vase on the south coast.
The focus is most certainly on the league, but departure from the two major knockout competitions before the first month of the season has even been completed is a bitter pill to swallow - not least because the financial rewards for progression in either competition is not to be sneezed at for a club at our level.
We started the brighter too, with Warren Colman going close early on; his shot fizzed past the post as the hosts looked nervous.
But those nerves dissipated when James Henton gave Selsey the lead just moments later, and despite enjoying the bulk of the possession as the half progressed, we were unable to create anything really tangible as the Seals held firm, and looked to hit us on the counter - almost playing as if they were the away side in an intriguing game of cat-and-mouse. Those tactics paid off when the hosts managed to keep the ball alive after it looked to be going out following a free-kick, and a defensive mix-up allowed them to poach a second.
There was some confusion as to who had got the final touch, with the home team awarding the goal to Corey Burns, whilst some in the travelling support felt that Jay Dunstan-Digweed should be debited with an own-goal. Whatever side of the debate you sat on, the undeniable fact was that we were 2-0 down and needed something - fast.
We got it moments before half-time, when Marcus Whittaker did superbly well to win a ball he looked to have no right to, and fed Kieran Campbell who bagged his fifth goal of the season to give us a lifeline.
But that didn’t prove to be the spark of inspiration we were looking for, as Selsey shut up shop in the second period and challenged us to break them down. Despite some increasingly frantic defending as the half wore on, they looked like they’d done enough as the match entered the later stages with the score still at 2-1.
Selsey thought they’d broken away to score a third late on, but were thwarted by an offside flag; as the Terrors attempted to force extra-time by poring players forward, we came close to salvaging it but were denied by the bar.
T&MU 4 Croydon Athletic 2
For the second successive week questions were asked of Jamie Byatt’s new-look Tooting side, and for the second successive week the answers were found.
With both sides unbeaten and local pride at stake, this was a highly anticipated match-up and, after a cagey opening twenty minutes or so, it did not disappoint.
When Kieran Campbell seized on a half-chance to storm forward and bury the ball beyond visiting keeper Oshane Brown, it was merely an opening bid in this breathtaking encounter.
The Rams hit straight back, and were level little over a minute later when Jack Marney turned on the edge of the box and fired a powerful shot into the top corner.
This gave them the momentum, and for the rest of the half they looked in control of things and the Terrors were grateful to Tom Theobald who pulled off a couple of fine stops to keep them at bay.
As with last week’s encounter, whatever Jamie said to his players at half-time, it certainly had the desired effect, as Tooting took a grip on the game as the half progressed, and we’re back in front thanks to Shay Brennan, whose diving header from Campbell’s cross capped a fine passage of play instigated by new signing Jay Dunston Digweed whose chipped ball forward showed a class not often seen at Step 5.
This time, Tooting we’re more intent on holding the advantage, and when Warren Colman powered his way through to register his first for the club with ten minutes to go, it looked like a comfortable margin of victory was on the cards.
Not so - back stormed AFC Croydon to force a couple of corners; from the latter skipper Dan Vaughan set a captain’s example by heading home powerfully at the far post and the outcome was back in the balance.
Thankfully, in Shay Brennan we now have an outlet which provides goals from out of almost nothing and when he foxed the last defender and keeper Brown to guide home number four in the last minute of regulation time, there was no way back for the visitors and Tooting made it maximum points from our opening three fixtures.
T&MU 4 Balham 2
A four-goal blast from Shay Brennan finally saw Tooting make it six points out of six in their start to the league season. The prolific frontman was on target after just six minutes when he got clear of the defence and slipped the ball past the keeper for the opener; when he made it 2-0 not long after, it looked like a comfortable evening was on the cards. Marcus Whittaker had shown customary trickiness down the flank and sent over a deep cross which flicked off a defender's head before being steered home from close range with a well-executed volley at waist-height by Shay.
But, Tooting being Tooting, it was 2-2 at the break after Balham's danger-man, Tom Read, bagged a brace of his own. First he showed tremendous determination to shrug off two defenders on his way into the area where he curled home a beauty that gave Tom Theobold no chance.
Theo would have been disappointed with the equaliser, though, a direct free-kick that he'll feel he should have done better with, but he was alert to pull off a couple of stops before the break as the visitors threatened to really turn things around.
Whatever was said at half-time did the trick, and a revitalised Terrors side gradually took control of the game in the second period, finally marking their increasing dominance with a goal midway through the half when Shay slid in a shot from a difficult angle at the far post which crossed the line before a defender could clear it. There was some confusion as play looked initially to be waved on, but the Referee's Assistant on the far side was adamant in what he had seen.
Tooting wrapped up the points about ten minutes from time when Shay deftly guided a header home for his fourth after Kieran Campbell's fierce drive had been well parried by the visiting keeper.
Next up is a real test, with the visit of near-neighbours AFC Croydon Athletic.
Jersey Bulls 0 T&MU 1
The Terrors got their league programme off to the perfect start, soaking up a lot of first half pressure before a superb second half goal from Kieran Campbell brought the three points back from the Channel Islands.
Jersey made the early running, and we were fortunate when a shot from them bounced off the post and into the arms of Tom Theobald.
They continued to push us back, and carved out another chance shortly after which was fired over the bar.
Tooting were patiently waiting for an opening, and carved out their first chance when Kieran Campbell got clear of the defence but shot straight at the keeper who blocked with his legs when Kieran might have done better.
The Terrors were beginning to advance with more purpose now, and Kieran again had a shot which was too close to the keeper, and Hussein Siklawi also tried his luck with a crisp shot but didn’t fare any better as half-time approached.
Jersey started the second half as they had the first - on the front foot - and Theo was called into action again early on, as he beat out a close-range shot; the hosts continued to apply the early pressure but another offensive move from them came to nothing, and set the scene for the Terrors to gradually wrest control.
In the absence of Shay Brennan, the player/manager had selected himself to provide the attacking threat, playing just behind Kieran Campbell, and the gaffer found himself well placed when the ball was floated across, but his header was comfortably gathered by the keeper.
On the hour mark, the breakthrough finally came; Tooting had soaked up the pressure and were beginning to dictate the pace of the play, and it was Kieran Campbell who netted the goal - his third of the season already - when he picked the ball up twenty-five yards from goal, shrugged off a couple of defenders, and curled a sublime effort into the top corner. A superb strike, and the Terrors now had something meaningful to defend.
Jersey piled forward in an attempt to force an equaliser, and Theo had to be alert to palm away a mid-range drive, then stayed down after gathering the resulting corner but happily was able to continue after treatment. As the game became stretched, Jersey will feel hard done to when an ‘equaliser’ was ruled out for a foul in the build-up, but we also had chances to seal the three points - the best of which saw substitute Rob Daye break through but fail to finish when well placed.
T&MU 2 Athletic Newham 4 (FAC,EPr Replay)
Tooting took their leave from the FA Cup after two extraordinary ties with Athletic Newham.
The Terrors carved out the first opening after just five minutes when Marcus Whittaker’s quick feet shook off his marker and he sent a deep cross to the far post where Shay Brennan’s measured header was beaten out by keeper Wilkinson Boateng.
We continued to exert early pressure and Kieran Campbell’s long range drive cleared the crossbar minutes later.
But after 11 minutes, the hosts were awarded a penalty after Mohamed Cherif Cissé made a rash challenge. Cissé stayed down in great pain and the medics and stretcher bearer were quickly on the scene. After a delay in excess of ten minutes, he was carried from the field of play, and the spot-kick could finally be taken. Keeper Tom Theobald dived low to his right to push the kick from Saturday’s hat-trick hero Richard Kone around the post.
The reprieve was short-lived, though, as a minute later, Kone cut in from the right and netted with a superb shot from the edge of the box.
It was end-to-end stuff for a while, before Theo made a fine close-range stop from Daniel Izekor; the ball fell to Joel Appiah, but he fumbled his effort wide with the goal gaping.
Into first-half stoppage-time, Appiah made amends to double the visitors advantage, showing more accuracy from distance than he did from three yards!
Tooting really needed something before the break, and almost got it when Shay Brennan outpaced the defence and fired goalwards, but Boateng made a decent block with his legs. The ball spun up off the turf back to Brennan but he couldn’t guide his header on target and put it wide.
Athletic Newham added a third right at the start of the second half as Izekor netted from Kone’s low cross and made it four when Kone netted his second (and fifth in the two games) with a fine strike into the top corner.
Tooting looked dead and buried at this point, but we should have learned from Saturday that it ain’t over till it’s over, and when Shawn Lyle bundled in a header to make it 4-1 there was still almost half an hour still to play.
Galvanised by this, the Terrors put Newham under sustained pressure for the first time, with Hussein Siklawi firing a free-kick just too high, and Sam Orisatoki did the same with a pile-driver from the edge of the box.
With ten minutes (plus stoppages) left, it was 2-4 as Shay was bundled over in an attempt to get on the end of Marcus Whittaker’s cross, and (just as he did on Saturday) Kieran Campbell netted the penalty with a powerful shot giving Boateng no chance.
Three minutes later, it really looked like game-on again, when a clever flick from Marcus released Shay inside the six-yard box and he showed composure to slip the ball past Boateng into the net, but the flag went up to deny him the goal - it was a borderline offside decision but just shows the fine line between glory and grief.
Still, heads didn’t go down and we continued to force the issue right to the whistle; Hussein Siklawi seized on a loose ball just outside the area but his snap shot cannoned off the post and the Terrors game attempts to complete an unlikely comeback were finally at an end.
Athletic Newham 3 T&MU 3 (FAC,EPr)
A quite extraordinary finale saw the Terrors pegged back from three goals down, and grateful to keeper Tom Theobald for a second chance to progress in the competition.
The Terrors struggled to come to terms with the difficult conditions and bobbly pitch early on, with Theo having to be alert to come off his line twice in the opening minutes to repel home efforts.
Only Marcus Whittaker, for the visitors, was showing any kind of threat early on, and it was his deep cross just before the half-hour that enabled us to take the lead; Warren Colman was unceremoniously chopped down as he tried to control the ball in the area, and the referee pointed to the spot, sending off the offender in the process. Kieran Campbell drove home the penalty with confidence, giving the Terrors the half-time advantage.
When Shay Brennan won a one-on-one with the keeper and nicked the ball past him into the net seven minutes into the second half, it looked like Tooting were heading to a comfortable victory; these thoughts were compounded when Lewis Gonsalves powered home a header from Whittaker’s cross to make it 3-0 Just before the hour.
But the game turned shortly afterward when Marcus, who had already been booked for retaliation in the first half, received a second yellow card for kicking the ball away and, deprived of their talisman, the Terrors fell apart.
It still looked little more than a consolation when Richard Kone netted from the spot eleven minutes from time.
But spurred on by this lifeline, the hosts sprang to life and forced a series of corners that almost won them the tie; firstly, Kone headed home their second to reduce the arrears to one, then after Theo had tipped a close-range effort round the post to give them another flag-kick, Kone rose highest again to head home his and Newham’s third, and bring them level.
With the match deep into stoppage time (even without VAR we endured a 52 minute first-half, and 59 minute second), Newham almost scuppered the need for a replay as Dej Adeosun headed off the line and, from the resulting corner, Tom Theobald excelled himself once again pushing a goal bound effort round the post. It was an exhilarating end to an exhausting afternoon - but par-for-the-course when you’re a Tooting supporter.