MATCH REPORTS FEBRUARY 2022
Saturday 26th February Tooting & Mitcham United 0 Ashford Town (middx) 1
Things went from bad to worse on a dismal afternoon, as a poor Ashford side completed a league double to leave the Terrors firmly in the mire at the wrong end of the table.
After such an encouraging performance in the midweek trip to Margate, where the youngsters pushed their higher division opponents all the way, hopes were high that the recent sequence of league draws (five consecutive, at start of play) could be ended with a much needed three-point haul.
Well, the sequence was ended but not in the way that most in the ground hoped - and the season is beginning to worryingly resemble the 2017/18 campaign when a seemingly well-placed Terrors outfit couldn’t eke out a win no matter how hard they tried, and found themselves sliding out of the Premier division on the final Saturday of the season.
On this afternoon, things just seemed flat from the off; with mild temperatures and the sun in attendance, an optimistic feeling pervaded the south London air - which lasted until approximately three minutes past three, when referee Alex Bradle commenced proceedings and howls of derision greeted the first misplaced pass. Whether it needed something from the players to enliven the crowd, or vice versa, the spark was noticeably missing.
Chances were at a premium, and the game looked destined for a goalless affair from very early on. Mike Dixon was set clear on eighteen minutes, but his confidence looked shaky as he nervously scuffed the ball wide with only keeper Alfie McNally to beat.
From a Nathan Gordon corner, Mark Waters had a shot blocked, but he managed to work the ball wide to Gordon again; his second attempt at a cross was met by the advancing Cory Walters-Wright but his glancing header never threatened to trouble McNally.
The most meaningful action of the match was condensed into the few minutes added on at the end of the first-half, with Kain Adom taking advantage of hesitancy in the home defence to shoot the visitors into a surprise lead with the whistle looming; we then conjured up our best move of the afternoon to almost restore immediate parity, but Billy Brown’s thunderous shot from the edge of the box crashed against the angle of post and bar, and was cleared.
We didn’t know it yet, but that was the last real opening we would be able to carve out. With Ashford content to sit on what they had, there was much huffing and puffing from the Terrors in the second period, but no real openings worthy of the name and the game petered out accordingly as Tooting lacked the guile to break down their stubborn, but unremarkable, opponents.
T&MU : Pain, Gordon, Hamlin, Ndiaye (Cave 73”), Daly, Walters-Wright, Brown, Waters, Faniyan, Dixon (Bangura-Williams 37”), Osei-Obengo (Ouaret Sorr 76”).
SUBS NOT USED : Figueiredo-Correia, Offei.
Attendance : 208
Tuesday 22nd February Margate 2 Tooting & Mitcham United 1 (Velocity Trophy 4th round)
The Terrors final chance of a trophy this season disappeared on the north Kent coast, but our youngsters pushed their higher division opponents all the way before a late goal settled the tie.
We made two changes from the previous weekend, with Nathan Daly returning from suspension to replace the injured Nikolai Krokhin and Mike Dixon restored to the attack in place of Reece Cave, who dropped to the bench.
We weren’t overawed, although the home side dominated the early possession. Ollie Pain showed some good handling in the initial stages and Daly was marshalling his defence with authority. The first chance fell to the hosts with Ken Feyi advancing onto a through ball, but Pain was quickly off his line to smother. Feyi went close again moments later with a headed chance following a corner, which just cleared the bar.
Tooting were carving out chances of their own, though, with Billy Brown’s pace a key factor in creating an opening for Mark Waters who was crowded out by the home defence before he could engineer a shooting chance.
It was a nice move which saw the deadlock broken, unfortunately for us in favour of the Gate; Vance Bola found Feyi just outside the area and he bisected the defence with a through ball which James Bessey-Saldanha took in his stride before slipping it calmly past Pain.
It was an impressive response from the Terrors, when it seemed as if heads might drop. New signing Simon Offei, in his second match in black and white, twisted and turned on the edge of the box and wrongfooted the home defence to create a shooting chance which Ben Bridle-Card had to be alert to palm away, and a defender was grateful to thump the ball into touch as Sam Faniyan breathed down his neck. Tooting continued to exert pressure as the half progressed, but the Margate defence were keeping things tight and we were unable to turn possession into tangible chances before the teams left the field for their half-time breather.
HT : Margate 1 T&MU 0
The first opening of the second period came ten minutes in, and it was Bessey-Saldana sensing a chance to double his personal tally for the evening as he cut into the box and flashed an effort across the face of the goal.
This warning shot seemed to spark the Terrors off again, though, and driven forward by the midfield partnership of Waters and Baye Ndiaye we began to inch our way back into the game. Some fine work by Faniyan down the right saw Waters presented with an opening on the edge of the box; his shot was charged down but fell nicely to Offei whose effort was also blocked as Margate were beginning to look stretched at the back.
We looked to take advantage, and Brown made another run down the right but his whipped cross was just too far in front of Mike Dixon. Fractions were making all the difference, as minutes later Dixon’s cross was just too high for the advancing Waters to connect with his head.
Just past the hour, Zaid Ouaret Sorr continued his rehabilitation from injury by replacing Offei, and showed he was the inspiration we’d been seeking as he equalised with his first touch; it was another surging Billy Brown run and cross from the right and this time Ouaret Sorr was on hand to touch gleefully home.
Zaid then seized onto a loose pass in the middle of the park, and set Faniyan away; the keeper made a meal of his scuffed effort but just about managed to hang onto it as Faniyan looked to latch onto any potential rebound. It was good stuff from the Terrors now.
Margate were looking rattled, and made two changes in their attempt to stem the tide going against them. For the visitors, Shamal Edwards replaced Sam Faniyan as we looked to cement the upset in the closing stages.
Brown was continuing to torment his marker down the right hand side, and another ball cut back across bobbled around the box and fell for Dixon, whose shot was too close to Bridle-Card.
With penalties looming, Margate were awarded a free-kick on the left-hand side; Ben Greenhalgh floated it toward the back post where Lewis Knight took it down impressively, before slotting past Pain to restore the home lead. This time they celebrated wildly, knowing there was little time to hang on, and the referee duly called proceedings to a halt shortly afterward to ensure the host’s passage into the quarter-finals.
This was an encouraging performance, against a side with a good home record who hadn’t conceded so much as a goal in their previous four outings; if they can carry this form into subsequent matches, the young Terrors can yet salvage some pride from an increasingly dismal league season.
T&MU : Pain, Gordon, Hamlin, Waters, Daly, Walters-Wright (Bangura-Williams 90”), Brown (Figueiredo-Correia 90”), Ndiaye, Faniyan (Edwards 75”), Dixon, Offei (Ouaret Sorr 62”).
SUBS NOT USED : Cave.
Attendance : 160
Saturday 5th February Northwood 2 Tooting & Mitcham United 2
A moment of madness, and a questionable decision from the officials denied the Terrors all three points after a battle of attrition in north-west London.
Still, after the dust had settled, a point in this corner of the capital is not such a bad result, given the influx of new players in red and white, and the resultant upturn in form that had produced four straight victories over some good opposition. Only one player remained in the Northwood sixteen who had featured in the match at Imperial Fields in October - a 7-3 Tooting victory which had proved one of many false dawns in this campaign.
Galvanised by their recent form, it was no surprise that the hosts dominated the opening exchanges; the Tooting defence - looking much firmer in recent games - held their shape well early on, and once Nathan Daly had reacted sharply to block an early shot, we settled into the game and started to spread the ball around nicely.
In the eighteenth minute, a pleasing passage of play led to our first chance of the afternoon; Mark Waters fed Sam Faniyan, who showed a nice switch of feet and worked the ball out to the overlapping Marco Figueiredo-Correia. His cross was floated towards the penalty spot, where Faniyan met the ball with a glancing header but the effort just cleared the bar.
Six minutes later, we took a deserved lead, with Waters showing strength and pace to power his way into the box, and test Daniel Hosier in the home goal with a thunderous cross-shot. The keeper failed to hold the ball, and it fell perfectly for the advancing Mike Dixon to poach the opening goal.
There was more good work from Dixon minutes later, as he flicked the ball across the edge of the area to Waters; he switched feet, but couldn’t engineer a shooting chance and there was nobody supporting to offer an outlet. Northwood were grateful to hack the ball away.
Daly headed wide from a corner, and in the last minute of the half, Nathan Gordon got away down the left and squared the ball across. A defender looked to have it covered, but missed his kick and it fell invitingly to Waters who was level with the penalty spot, but clearly not expecting the chance to fall to him, he was unable to react quickly enough to get his shot on target.
HT : Northwood 0 T&MU 1
The Terrors burst into life again right at the start of the second period, and doubled the lead just a couple of minutes in. Faniyan burst into the area, bamboozled his marker, and laid the ball back for Waters who made no mistake this time, with his sidefooted effort bulging the net.
Midway through the half, a free-kick floated in was only half-cleared and fell awkwardly to Jordan Clarke just outside the area; it was a difficult height at which to hit the ball, but he managed to shift his body and get decent power on it. Hosier made a bit of a meal of it, but just about held on, and a minute later the hosts were back in the game.
A looping left-wing cross from Andy Lomas may have caught on the swirling wind; somehow, Ollie Pain totally mis-judged the flight of the ball, and Micah Jackson controlled well, before tapping into an empty net to reduce the arrears.
The hosts had the bit between their teeth now, and scented blood. Josh Helmore received the ball and turned nicely before firing a low shot across goal, with which Sydney Ibie just failed to connect.
We were looking to hold on to what we had, with the possibility of hitting them on the break to add to our lead; one such moment as the game moved towards the last ten minutes saw Mike Dixon drag his shot wide after seizing on a mis-placed pass on the edge of the home penalty area, and Hosier had to be alert to parry Billy Brown’s low shot. We breathed a sigh of relief when a curled effort from Alex Moore hit the post and bounced away for a goal-kick.
It looked as if we had done enough to hold out for a welcome three points, but as the game ticked into the dying embers, Northwood upped the pressure again and forced a succession of corners. From the last of these, Ollie Pain flapped at the ball, and it fell to Keagan Cole who headed goalwards. Mark Waters, with his feet just behind the goal-line, seemed to have kept it out but the assistant referee signalled otherwise, and referee Fabio Roque allowed the goal to stand, despite seemingly having already blown for a foul on Pain.
The Tooting players were vociferous in their protests, and Jordan Clarke and Nathan Daly were both dismissed as the game ended in confusion and acrimony.
T&MU : Pain, Figueiredo-Correia (Brown 70”), Hamlin, Waters, Daly, Walters-Wright, Gordon, Ndiaye, Faniyan, Clarke, Dixon (Edwards 86”).
Subs not used : Ceesay, Bassett, Bangura-Williams.
Attendance : 191
Saturday 12th February Tooting & Mitcham United 1 Uxbridge 1
Mark Waters scored for the fourth match in a row, but his 56th minute penalty ultimately proved enough only for another point on a bitterly cold afternoon at Imperial Fields.
It was a frustrating match, with defences on top and high-flying Uxbridge showing limited ambition in their quest for promotion. Once again, we had plenty of possession but lacked a cutting edge in the last third of the pitch.
We fielded two new signings, Simon Offei and the returning Reece Cave, and both played their part in a fast-paced opening. With just two minutes gone, a corner floated in from Cave caught on the wind and clipped the top of the crossbar before dropping onto the roof of the net.
In the fifteenth minute, Waters played a piercing crossfield pass which Offei did well to control, then cut inside to engineer a shooting chance but his curled effort was well kept out by visiting keeper Tyler Tobin.
Uxbridge were looking dangerous on the break, and after a flowing attack culminated in Cory Walters-Wright’s goal-line clearance, Victor Osubu struck the ball against the underside of the bar in the visitor’s best chance of the half.
HT : T&MU 0 Uxbridge 0
The second period began in the same cagey fashion, but twelve minutes in Nikolai Krokhin made a surging run into the penalty area and went down. There seemed to be minimal contact from the covering defender but referee Adam Merchant had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. There was some delay before the kick was taken as Krokhin received lengthy treatment, but Waters showed no nerves as he eventually struck home emphatically to give us a fortunate, but welcome, lead.
Shortly afterward, a superb run by Billy Brown presented Waters with another half-chance, but this time he was penalised for pushing before he was able to get his shot off. The Terrors seemed to be getting comfortably on top at this point, at last.
We were still struggling to find the final ball needed to unlock the visiting defence, though, and Uxbridge were beginning to look more threatening as they were forced to chase the game; Prince Ogunmekan was presented with a glorious chance to equalise, but with just Ollie Pain to beat, couldn’t keep his shot down and it proved more hazardous to a passing pigeon than Pain’s clean sheet.
As the game entered the last ten minutes, it was starting to look as if we could hold out for a much needed victory. But with seven minutes left, a speculative run down the right ended with the ball played dangerously back across the six yard box and it was turned in for the equaliser. There was some debate as to who had got the final touch, with the initial announcement given as a Dean Hamlin OG, but Juwon Akintunde was challenging the Tooting skipper and has retrospectively been credited with the goal.
That was all academic in the greater scheme of things; once again the Terrors had let victory slip from our grasp, and although Simon Offei was presented with a good chance in stoppage time, he skewed his shot wide and we had to settle for a fifth consecutive draw in the league. With a daunting trip to runaway leaders Bracknell Town looming, we will be fortunate indeed to extend that unbeaten sequence to six.
T&MU : Pain, Gordon, Hamlin, Waters, Krokhin (Figueiredo-Correia 63”), Walters-Wright, Brown (Ceesay 70”), Ndiaye, Faniyan (Edwards 84”), Cave, Offei.
SUBS NOT USED : Bassett, Bangura-Williams.
Attendance : 209