MATCH REPORTS FEBRUARY 2023
Saturday 4th February - T&MU 2-3 Basingstoke Town
The Terrors showed some of the fighting spirit that will be needed in the remainder of the season as we came within a whisker of a major upset against league leaders Basingstoke, but were left wondering what might have been as a saved penalty galvanised the visitors who rallied to take all three points back to Hampshire.
It was the hosts who started brightly, and were a whisker away from taking the lead when skipper Nathan Daly headed against the crossbar following a ninth minute corner. Then visiting keeper Paul Strudley got to the ball just ahead of Manu Oke-William as the gangly striker attempted to get on the end of Shawn Lyle's nicely threaded through pass.
But Basingstoke were threatening too, and Dan Purdue had to be alert to block with his legs as Paul Hodges couldn't get any height on his close-range effort.
The visitors duly went in front when George Reid shot home following defensive uncertainty, and after Hodges struck across the penalty area for number two to sneak in at the far post it looked all up for Tooting before half an hour had been played.
However, some sparkling wing play from Andrew Sesay finished with a slide-rule pass to Malachi Hudson, and the recent signing showed good footwork and admirable composure to work an opening and fire in his first goal in the black and white stripes.
Anuar Ceesay, so often at the heart of Tooting's attacking threat in recent weeks, seized on a loose pass across the midfield early in the second period and tried his luck from distance; Strudley was deceived by the pace and curl on the ball, it snuck in at his near post and - amazingly - we were back on level terms.
Suddenly, it was all Tooting, and the visitors were rattled as we sustained pressure and pushed them backwards; this was the Terrors of old, and as the home support started to believe and roared their side on, three points began to look a likelihood rather than a pipe dream.
Sadly, it's the hope that often kills you, and after the referee had pointed to the spot following an innocuous-looking challenge by a visiting defender, Tooting had the opportunity to go in front. Shawn Lyle, lively on his debut, struck the kick well enough but Strudley got down to his right and kept it out well.
That heartbreak was compounded not long afterwards as the leaders regained their composure and Bradley Wilson ran at the Tooting defence before cutting the ball back for Benjamin Cook to strike a harsh winner. How close we had come, though...
T&MU : Purdue, James-Thompson (sub : Travers 68"), Filipe, Chang, Daly, Krokhin, Ceesay
(sub : Ako-Adjei 79"), Lyle, Oke-William, Hudson (sub : Clarke 73"), Sesay.
Subs not used : Akinnibi, Walters-Wright.
Attendance : 281
Report : Ed Parlett
Tuesday 7th February - Ashford Town 2-1 T&MU
A disputed penalty proved to be the difference as another three points were surrendered on a freezing night in west London.
The pitch looked fairly hard as the teams warmed up beforehand, and with a covering frost at the start of play, it must have been touch and go as to whether this twice-postponed fixture would finally go ahead. But the referee gave his approval, much as we might have wished otherwise, and our already tenuous position took another knock as the home side eased their own relegation worries slightly.
In truth, they probably deserved to be more than one goal ahead at the break, after a half in which we struggled to create anything tangible; but the (now) joint-managers switched things around at half-time, and saw a rejuvenated Tooting side draw level before taking control of the game and looking the more likely winners - until the dubious penalty decision at least.
Ashford were quicker to find their feet on the less than lustrous surface, and Tooting were pinned back for long spells. After twenty minutes, former Terror Prince Mbengui capitalised on a dodgy bobble which deceived Jaiden Chang, and struck a neat volley from the edge of the box which looked to be heading for the far corner - that is until Dan Purdue sprang to his left and pulled off an outstanding one-handed save to turn the ball around the post, an action that drew fulsome applause from all sides of the ground.
Unfortunately, Dan was given no chance to bask in his glory as just a few minutes later a cross from the left eluded our defence, leaving Ricky Johnson unmarked in the six yard box. He kept his cool, and slotted the ball beyond the exposed Tooting custodian.
The visiting defence failed to heed the lesson, and Johnson had a chance to double the lead shortly afterwards, but this time Dan did well to block with his legs and keep us only one adrift as the teams departed the field.
We started the second period like a different side, going straight on the offensive as Andrew Sesay, starved of service in the first half, began to run their full-back a merry dance; having tormented the Basingstoke defence three days prior, Andrew was at it again as he drove past his marker and lifted a pinpoint cross to the far post where half-time substitute Kareem Akinnibi squeezed his volley through a narrow gap at the keeper's near-post to bring us on terms. Like Saturday, our opponents were rattled as Tooting grew in confidence and Malachi Hudson was unlucky when he collected another pass from Sesay but his crisp shot from the edge of the box was deflected out for a corner.
We continued to look the better side until fifteen minutes from time when the referee pointed to the spot after Alex Filipe tangled with Johnson in the box and Wayne Ridgley fired home the penalty.
We kept battling until the end but Jordan Clarke's snap shot which drifted just wide of the post was the closest we came to earning a deserved point.
T&MU : Purdue, Kirlew-Wright, Filipe, Chang (sub : Bangura-Williams 81"), Walters-Wright, Krokhin, Ceesay, Lyle, Oke-William (sub : Clarke 62"), Hudson (sub : Akinnibi HT), Sesay.
Subs not used : Travers, Ako-Adjei.
Attendance : 114
Report : Ed Parlett
Saturday 11th February - Bedfont Sports 0-0 T&MU
We collected our first point of 2023 and, although we really need to be picking up some three-pointers, there were many positive signs on show at the Bedfont Recreation Ground.
The hosts were first to mount an attack, though; new signing Elijas Bagdonavicius made a promising debut overall, but he took a while to get the feel of the artificial surface and it was his failure to intercept a ball down the right touchline that led to Steve Ngunga being presented with a close-range chance that he somehow lifted well over the bar when it looked easier to score.
With fifteen minutes played, Manu Oke-William was chopped down on the left-hand side of the penalty area and Jordan Clarke's free-kick to the far post was converted by another promising debutant, Ryan Lopes. Unfortunately, the flag was up and although it looked a marginal decision at best, it wasn't the first such call to go against us this season and probably won't be the last.
Lopes was settling in well, and displayed neat footwork to present Manu with a shooting chance; his curled effort from distance failed to trouble Joe Ringer in the home goal.
After the break, the match continued to unfold in a cagey fashion; both sides were keeping it tight, looking to capitalise on the single chance that could make all the difference at the bottom of the table.
Andrew Sesay did well to force a corner when surrounded by home defenders without a friendly outlet, and Jordan Clarke's ball in caused confusion in the penalty area; it wasn't clear who got the final touch, with the six-yard box so congested, but what was clear was the crossbar which denied us the breakthrough.
We continued to probe for an opening, but as the clock wound down it was the hosts who had the chance to bag the points late on when Dan Purdue stood up well to foil Aiden Brown, and then reacted quickly to pull off a double save as the loose ball fell to Kofi Anoyke-Boadi. It would have been harsh to lose so late on; Ringer had been much the busier keeper overall, but Dan had made the more eye-catching saves. All in all, a point was probably a fair result - we shall just have to wait and see how important it may have been when the dust settles at season's end.
T&MU : Purdue, Daly, Bagdonavicius (sub : Filipe 81"), Chang, Walters-Wright, Krokhin, Lopes (sub : Ceesay 70"), Gordon, Oke-William, Clarke, Sesay.
Subs not used : Bangura-Williams, Lyle, Hudson.
Attendance : 124
Report : Ed Parlett
Saturday 18th February - T&MU 2-0 Binfield
Two goals from big defender Nikolai Krokhin secured three vital points for the Terrors, as we dominated proceedings against a strangely lacklustre Binfield side.
With the visitors having one eye on a play-off place, we expected a tough afternoon; that it was anything but is perhaps a testament to the character and belief that is currently flowing throughout the team which saw our guests reduced to second-best all afternoon.
As in so many matches recently, Tooting came out of the blocks fast and stamped their authority on proceedings early. Unlike many home games this season, we managed to sustain this pressure through the ninety minutes and complete a thoroughly satisfying afternoons work, bagging the points with little resistance.
We never really looked in danger after opening the scoring just past the half-hour; we'd already gone close a few minutes earlier as Enoch Ako-Adjei flashed a shot across the face of goal with Jordan Clarke stretching, but just failing to make contact with the ball.
Enoch then attempted another meaningful run down the left, but was cut down by a defender, presenting us with a free-kick which Alex Filipe floated toward the far post. Nikolai challenged the keeper, and got the merest of touches to glance the ball past him and into the net; such has been our luck this season (or lack of it) that the celebration was somewhat muted as many on the Bog End half expected the referee to declare a foul on Harvey Rackley-Hayes in the visiting goal, but Mr. Gidman was perfectly happy with what he had seen and pointed to the centre circle.
Spurred on by the breakthrough, we grew in confidence; the only surprise was that it took so long to rubber-stamp our authority on the game. But just after the hour mark, a corner swung in was only half cleared by the Binfield defence and Nik belied his stature to turn beautifully in a tight space and hook a bicycle kick past Rackley-Hayes for his second.
We had further chances to cement the victory, with Binfield showing little to justify their higher placing in the table. The late introduction of substitute Tinomudaishe Mabukwa did at least inject a little urgency into their efforts; firstly he set up Lewis Gavin for a close-range shot but Dan Purdue made a superb point-blank one-handed save to turn it around the post. Then Mabukwa struck a long-range effort which hit the inside of the post and bounced out but it was too little, too late as Tooting were in no mood to be denied their well-earned victory.
T&MU : Purdue, Daly, Filipe, Chang, Walters-Wright, Krokhin, Ceesay (sub : Lopes 89"), Gordon, Clarke (sub : Bangura-Williams 71"), Lyle, Ako-Adjei.
Subs not used : Hudson, Bagdonavicius, Oke-William.
Attendance : 130
Report : Ed Parlett
Monday 20th February - Merstham 0-0 T&MU
Another point was secured - and another clean sheet kept into the bargain, but Tooting's failure to bag all three at the Moatside - against our fellow strugglers to boot - may yet prove to be significant as the battle to avoid the drop becomes ever more intense at a critical point in the season.
This was never going to be an easy assignment; despite their position just above us, it should be remembered that our hosts had not won a league game until the last weekend in November, but their form since has been more akin to that of a side chasing a play-off place at the 'right' end of the division - they came into this one with only three defeats in thirteen matches since securing that all-important first victory.
Nevertheless, we had been showing improvement of our own, and will have pencilled this one down as a key opportunity to make a statement against one of the teams we need to overtake.
The hosts took the early initiative, with Terrors keeper Dan Purdue being called into action early as he pushed an overhead kick over the bar as the Moatsiders went straight onto the front foot.
They then flashed a free-kick inches wide, but the referee awarded a corner so perhaps it was another vital touch by the big Tooting stopper - at least it was in the eyes of the official.
Merstham kept us pinned back for much of the half, as we struggled to make anything positive happen in or around their penalty area - but at least our defence was holding firm and keeping them at arm's length.
Just before the break, we managed to create something of our own. Ryan Lopes made a yard of space in a congested zone but his shot drifted just wide of the post.
A similar pattern began to emerge in the second period, as we continued to defend resolutely, and attempted to feed on scraps at their end.
Dan was managing to keep his sheet intact, and deserved a bit of luck when a snap-shot flashed across the face of his goal.
As time begin to run out, we attempted to step up our efforts to hit them on the break and almost managed to pinch one when home keeper (and, briefly, former Terror) Filip Chalupniczak came off his line to block a forward run and only succeeded in deflecting the ball to substitute Anuar Ceesay who was advancing on the left-hand side but rushed his shot from a difficult angle and failed to hit the target.
A sizeable crowd bayed for a penalty as Dan tangled with a home forward late on, but the travelling contingent breathed a huge sigh of relief when the referee adjudged it to be six of one and half a dozen of the other as he waved play on and we deservedly banked a hard-won point.
T&MU : Purdue, Daly, Bagdonavicius, Chang, Krokhin, Walters-Wright, Kirlew-Wright, Gordon, Lopes (sub : Ako-Adjei 58"), Oke-William (sub : Bangura-Williams HT), Hudson (sub : Ceesay 57").
Subs not used : Filipe, Akinnibi.
Attendance : 287
Report : Ed Parlett
Saturday 25th February - South Park 1-1 T&MU
An explosive end to a rather pedestrian affair saw two goals in stoppage time at the death, giving us another point in our battle against the drop, and South Park one in their quest for a play-off place, but neither side will be completely satisfied with the outcome - both needing some maximum pointers for their very different objectives.
Still, having fallen behind so late in proceedings (and after conceding for the first time in approximately 375 minutes of league football), that we were able to leave Whitehall Lane with a point and a now four game unbeaten run was one positive that could be gleaned - but with the teams around us all also avoiding defeat on the day, it was another chance to make a dent in our situation gone.
The first half lacked any real clear-cut goalscoring opportunities; Ben Jordan's backward lob over his own head and debut-making Tooting goalkeeper Sam Nabbad was perhaps the closest either side came to breaking the stalemate.
Finlay Johnson fired over from the edge of the box, whilst Ryan Lopes' blocked effort was the closest we came as the teams departed the field on level terms.
The tempo increased in the second half as both sides displayed a little more urgency, but it was still seemingly heading for a goalless draw - which would have been our third in four matches - when the game entered injury-time.
The hosts were awarded a corner which was lifted to the edge of the box where Joe Bell sent a looping header goalward which deceived Sam and dropped in for what looked like a dramatic winner.
But the Terrors are made of much sterner stuff these days, and piled froward with purpose from the restart. A deflected shot gave us a corner of our own which Jordan Clarke sent in at waist-height. Recent signing Lopes threw himself at the ball, connecting with a diving header which sped past keeper Zak Basey and sparked delirium amongst the travelling fans.
There was just time for our hosts to kick-off before the final whistle sounded, emphasising the last-second nature of the drama; the unwillingness to let our heads drop and settle for defeat could yet be a crucial factor in the matches that remain.
T&MU : Nabbad, Daly, Bagdonavicius (sub : Oke-William 82"), Hutchings (sub : Bangura-Williams 67"), Krokhin, Walters-Wright, Ako-Adjei, Gordon, Lopes, Clarke, Hudson (sub : Ceesay 84").
Subs not used : Hoy, Chang.
Attendance : 138
Report : Ed Parlett
Tuesday 28th February - T&MU 1-4 Walton & Hersham
It was a tale of three goalkeepers as we ultimately went down to a heavy defeat at the hands of Championship contenders Walton & Hersham, but the emphatic scoreline does not tell the full story of a dramatic evening at Imperial Fields.
Walton arrived boasting eight successive victories, and were big favourites to extend that run; but we had put together a mini run of form ourselves - four games unbeaten, including three clean sheets in that sequence - and were eager to test ourselves against one of the best teams the division had to offer.
The players exuded a quiet confidence beforehand, and that was borne out by a fast start as we dominated the early proceedings, and duly took the lead after just thirteen minutes of play.
A corner, swung in by Raees Bangura-Williams, caused panic in the visiting defence and as they attempted to lash the ball away it bounced up and caught a defender on the arm. Shouts for a penalty were waved away by the referee, but he did signal for a free-kick right on the edge of the area.
Raees stepped up, and curled a beauty beyond Liam Allen in the Walton goal; the Terrors were in front, and playing well.
Walton attempted to force an opening, but a rejuvenated home defence - with Nikolai Krokhin particularly impressive in recent weeks - held firm against their efforts, and Eddie Simon's header (which cleared the bar when he ought to have done better) was their only real chance for parity as time began to run out in the first period.
However, six minutes before the break, Tooting were plunged into disarray; Jordan Adeyemi hared away down the right flank and cut inside, heading for the penalty area. Home keeper Sam Nabbad had anticipated the move and came out of his box to challenge. As Adeyemi attempted to lift the ball over him, the keeper's instincts caused him to block the ball with his hands and there was little room for discretion from the referee, who consulted his assistant before sending Sam from the field of play.
With no keeper on the bench, Enoch Ako-Adjei donned the gloves, at least for the remainder of the half, and almost immediately distinguished himself with a fine save, scrambling across his goal to turn the ball wide down low to his right.
We changed things around at the break and substitute Malachi Hudson - rumoured to fancy himself a bit between the sticks - took over for the second period.
It was always going to be a backs-to-the-wall job in the time that remained, but the ten men defended heroically - and even threatened to extend their lead on a couple of rare breaks - and it looked as if a miracle might be in the offing as the visitors created, yet squandered, chance after chance after chance. Eddie Simon's drive with fifteen minutes to go, which cleared the crossbar when he had only Malachi to beat, seemed to sum up their evening to that point.
But it was a big ask to cling on until the final whistle and when the breakthrough came, eleven minutes from the end, it seemed inevitable that more would follow. In the event, goals from Joe Hicks, a brace from Simon, and an injury-time strike from Adeyemi kept the visitors in touch with Basingstoke. But what a fright they had been given and, boy, what might have been...
T&MU : Nabbad (S/O), Daly, Bagdonavicius, Hutchings, Kirlew-Wright, Krokhin, Ako-Adjei (sub : Hudson HT), Gordon, Lopes, Clarke (sub : Sesay 56"), Bangura-Williams (sub : Ceesay 73").
Subs not used : Oke-William, Chang.
Attendance : 133
Report : Ed Parlett