MATCH REPORTS NOVEMBER
Tuesday 23rd November Tooting & Mitcham United 1 Chertsey Town 2
It is becoming sadly predictable writing match reports for the Terrors recently. The formula seems much the same for each game; Tooting lose by the odd goal, but have enough chances to win comfortably; woodwork is struck at least once during the ninety minutes, and invariably there is a decent penalty claim summarily dismissed by the officials (though given our spot-kick credentials, perhaps they are only saving us from further embarrassment).
Any neutrals reading these reports would find their credulity being tested - surely no team can be this consistently unfortunate? The law of averages always evens itself out eventually, and teams get what they ultimately deserve. Maybe - but it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.
And so to a bitterly cold, and increasingly foggy Tuesday evening in November, and the visit of high-flying Chertsey - revitalised by the recent appointment as manager of former Arsenal star Ian Selley.
The game followed the usual pattern; a bright start, belying our run of three straight defeats in the league. Several chances are created, with Mark Waters forcing a flying save out of Nicholas Jupp about the best of them. Then, the inevitable - Chertsey take the lead against the run of play with former Terror Jake Baxter using his quick thinking to place his shot past debutant keeper Oliver Pain, who may have been unsighted.
Surprisingly perhaps, the lead lasted barely a minute; Tooting force a corner, the ball is headed goalwards by Ahkeem Belford, but cleared by a defender. As it falls to Daniel Williams, some thirty yards from goal, he thumps in a first time effort that flies past the despairing hands of Jupp - a quite astonishing goal, and one that makes coming out on one of the coldest nights of the year so far seem not such a bad decision after all.
And, surely now, an indication that our luck has changed for the better - that we’ll finally go on and claim a welcome three points that could kick-start our entire season…
By half-time, we troop off dejectedly again - Chertsey have regained the lead with a Samuel Murphy free-kick six minutes before the break; a nicely taken goal, it has to be admitted, but once again we have given ourselves a mountain to climb in the second forty-five.
HT : T&MU 1 Chertsey T. 2
There are no further goals in the game, but how that is the case - nobody is quite sure. Apart from one or two occasions when the Curfews threaten to extend their lead on a breakaway, Tooting dominate the period.
But can’t score.
We can’t score when Jupp makes three astonishing point-blank saves in the space of thirty seconds around the hour mark, in a sequence that unfolded so quickly it is difficult to see which players he has denied. It was Mike Dixon who powered into the area initially, and drove in a fierce shot from a tight angle which Jupp parried; it fell to (I think) Billy Brown who sent the next effort in, but Jupp had sprung up to keep that one out; it rebounded again, (possibly) to Daniel Williams who thought he only had to prod it over the line but somehow a grounded Jupp got across to push the ball away again - whereupon a grateful defender hoofed it away to gain some respite.
We can’t score when Dixon powers in another drive from the right-hand side, and the post intervenes; we can’t score in injury-time, when Brown curls in a speculative effort from the left which deceives the keeper, but not the crossbar from which it comes back into play.
And we certainly can’t score from the penalty spot between those incidents, because we are not given the chance to. Mike Dixon, who has terrorised the Chertsey defence all evening, but particularly so in the second half, powers away down the right once again; in a chase with Bryan Taylor, the defender makes a rash challenge and does not win the ball. He takes the legs. It looks a clear penalty, but the referee waves play on to the amazement of those in the ground (probably even to those few who are sporting away colours). It seems a harsh call by the man in black, although as pointed out earlier, there is no guarantee it would have been converted - it might have been nice to have the opportunity though.
And so, the dust settles on another three points dropped. Another defeat - four in a row now, and seven out of the last eight - all by the odd goal. We have to accept we are in a relegation scrap now, and face a number of teams in a similar position in the coming weeks. The festive period could well and truly define the rest of our season.
T&MU : Pain, Hamlin, Waters, Daly, Belford, Morris, Williams (Stewart 74”), Clarke (Ouaret Sorr 70”), Walters-Wright, Brown, Dixon.
SUBS NOT USED : Ceesay, Coleman, Bassett.
Attendance : 164
Saturday 20th November Tooting & Mitcham United 1 Marlow 2
The Terrors slumped to a fourth consecutive league defeat, amidst a very familiar pattern.
An encouraging start was not capitalised on with a goal, and promotion contenders Marlow punished us with two quickfire strikes that left us with a mountain to climb once again.
The players didn’t let their heads drop, and showed fight and spirit in abundance - qualities we shall surely be needing in the weeks ahead - but when the dust settled, three more points had been dropped and we have to face up to the very serious position we now find ourselves in.
It had been a bright start, and Simon Grant in the Marlow goal was called into action early on, touching the ball round the post after some good wing play from Billy Brown had set up Daniel Williams for a shot.
Shortly after, a searching through ball found Williams outpacing the defence and through on goal but Grant foiled him again, with his legs this time.
And we were made to pay for this profligacy shortly after when Nnamdi Nwachuku took advantage of confusion in the home defence to break the deadlock for the Blues. Six minutes after that it was two, when a free-kick from Kameron English took a deflection off the defensive wall and somehow found its way past Mackenzie Foley.
But eight minutes later, and with still a full hour of the match to play, Williams was faced with another one-on-one with Grant and this time despatched the ball past the keeper with a confidence that had not been diminished by the earlier misses.
Billy Brown was tormenting his marker with some trademark speed and footwork, and from one of these moves floated a dangerous cross into the six-yard box, but just over the heads of both Williams and Mike Dixon. Marlow got it away but Ahkeem Belford struck a firm shot from distance that cleared the bar.
HT : T&MU 1 Marlow 2
The Terrors began the second period in similar fashion to which we ended the first, as Billy Brown and Daniel Williams continued to cause problems for the visiting defence.
Shakeel Morris worked his way down the right, and centred for Williams who laid the ball off to Mark Waters who never has any qualms about shooting from distance; on this occasion though, it was too close to Grant and the keeper gratefully took it into his midriff.
Mike Dixon was becoming increasingly influential as the match wore on - his strength and determination proving a handful for the Marlow back line - and drove in an awkward shot from a difficult angle that Grant could only fist away, Williams following in couldn’t quite get the touch that was needed and another chance was gone.
Grant saved from Dixon again as the game entered the last ten minutes and set pieces looked the most likely source of salvation as Tooting began to throw everybody forward. From one such kick, Daryl Coleman touched the ball into the danger zone, Ahkeem cut it back across the box and substitute Zaid Ouaret-Sorr shot just wide; with that, our last hope had disappeared.
It was another enterprising display, another defeat by the odd goal; and yet another day when we felt justified in claiming we should have had something tangible from the ninety minutes. The worry now is that if this trend continues for much longer, the season could fall apart completely.
T&MU : Foley, Hamlin, Waters, Daly, Belford, Morris (Stewart 65”), Coleman, Williams (Ouaret-Sorr 83”), Clarke, Brown, Dixon.
SUBS NOT USED : Ceesay, Turbi, Bassett.
Attendance : 184
Saturday 13th November Basingstoke Town 3 Tooting & Mitcham United 2
Despite a much improved showing, the Terrors fell to yet another defeat - our seventh of the league season - to leave us some way short of play-off contention even at this relatively early stage.
With the win, Basingstoke moved into third in the division, but they can count themselves fortunate to have bagged the points even with our, sadly now traditional, customary concession of a goal start.
Before most of the sizeable contingent of travelling supporters had even taken up their position behind the goal we were attacking, we once again found ourselves chasing the game; with barely a minute registered, Simon Dunn powered onto a through ball and finished clinically past the exposed MacKenzie Foley to give the hosts the perfect start.
As the half progressed, the Terrors played their way back into contention with some neat passing football - with Billy Brown and Dontai Stewart looking particularly lively on the flanks, and Mark Waters pulling the strings impressively in midfield.
We were unlucky not to be on terms in the fourteenth minute when Waters let fly a trademark long-range effort, but with Paul Strudley flailing in the home goal the ball crashed back off the crossbar to preserve the hosts’ lead.
Tooting were controlling the play for long periods, without looking too threatening where it mattered, when out of the blue we were on terms; some sparkling wing play from Billy Brown saw him bamboozle the home defence, then switch the play to the other flank from where Shakeel Morris whipped in a dangerous cross. Strudley could only parry the ball and Stewart pounced with a diving header to restore parity with half-time looming.
We could have actually departed the field with an unlikely lead when the referee awarded us a free-kick just outside the area but after Dontai and Daryl Coleman had deliberated over who would take the kick, Stewart finally curled it just over the bar.
HT : Basingstoke T. 1 T&MU 1
Having finished the first half in the ascendancy, Tooting picked up where we’d left off at the start of the second period and with the home side looking rattled we threatened to take control of the game. Mark Waters continued to control things in midfield, and an early pass set Shakeel Morris away down the right; he beat his man with confidence, then cut the ball back to Daniel Williams who controlled it well but curled his effort just wide of the far post.
Billy Brown continued to torment his marker down the opposite flank, and a similar move down the left saw him cut the ball back across the six yard box with no attacking players in the vicinity to take advantage.
Basingstoke capitalised on some hesitancy at the back to carve out a chance that George Reid fired over shortly afterward, but the Terrors continued to control possession and create the better openings when we suddenly fell behind again on fifty-three minutes, after a contentious decision by referee Tom Baines. Home defender Bradley Wilson looked to have dragged Daniel Williams down on the edge of the area, and with the travelling support (and much of the home fans) expecting a free-kick to the visitors, Baines signalled it the other way and Reid got on the end of a long ball to thump it past Foley and restore the advantage to the delight of the home crowd.
We didn’t let our heads drop though, and continued to press forward - with set pieces looking our most likely route to salvation. From a corner just after the hour mark, Dean Hamlin firmly headed past Strudley to make it 2-2 and the points were in the balance once again.
Tooting continued to pass and move, and enjoy the bulk of the threatening moves once again - and looked the more likely to bag the points at this stage, with the hosts seemingly out of ideas in an attacking sense.
However, there was one more cruel twist to come, as Billy Brown once again ran at the home defence and was seemingly illegally chopped down just outside the box by two defenders. Referee Baines had other ideas though, and waved play on - which resulted in a long ball being played through the middle with Foley hopelessly exposed; he did well to advance from his goal, and deflect the ball wide, but with an attacking player picking the loose ball up and driving it towards goal once again, Mark Waters was penalised for a debatable handball and the hosts had the chance to regain the lead from the spot - which they took.
There were still some twenty minutes or so to go, but the decision (and subsequent booking for the influential Waters for protesting) had knocked the stuffing out of us and with the home side content to protect what they had and take no further chances, the game petered out somewhat after that; despite some decent possession - particularly down the right flank with Shakeel Morris - we were unable to carve out any real threatening goal chances and fell to our third successive defeat (all by the odd goal) in the league, since our smash and grab late win at Guernsey. The gap to the play-off positions is now looking worryingly large and unless we start turning promise into points, the task ahead of us will begin to look frighteningly insurmountable.
T&MU : Foley, Hamlin, Waters, Daley, Brown, Coleman, Williams, Clarke, Stewart (Demby 71”), Bassett (Dixon 60”), Morris.
SUBS NOT USED : Mbangui, Ouaret-Sorr, Ceesay.
Attendance : 653
Saturday 6th November 2021 Ashford Town (Middx) 2 Tooting & Mitcham United 1
The Terrors were brought back down to earth after back-to-back victories, as struggling Ashford Town - without so much as a home point in the league - found an indecisive Tooting team just what they needed to kick-start their season.
After impressive showings against Guernsey, when all three points were brought back from the longest journey of all, and a Metropolitan Police side who were confidently despatched from the Surrey Senior Cup, hopes were high of another three points as we travelled out to west London. All that good work was undone by a nervous and disjointed start which saw the hosts move into a two goal lead with the match barely twenty minutes old.
It is becoming a worrying trend for Tooting to concede an early goal and just two minutes had been registered here when Aaaron McLeish-White took advantage of some hesitancy in the visiting defence to shoot Ashford into the lead. The hosts had the ball in the net again on the quarter-hour but this time the flag was up and the goal disallowed for offside.
The warning was not heeded by the Terrors’ back line, though, and just seven minutes later the lead was doubled as Connor Cullen - who scored against us earlier in the season for his former club Northwood - got in behind and slotted calmly past MacKenzie Foley.
With the game quickly slipping away, we did manage to get some kind of grip on proceedings, and just past the half-hour, Andrew Sesay combined well with Billy Brown before smashing a shot into the side netting as we finally began to wake up a bit.
HT : Ashford T. 2 T&MU 0
With a mountain to climb, we did at least start the second half with a renewed sense of purpose and within the first five minutes, Jamarie Brissett showed some good footwork to turn his marker and get a shot in but Paul McCarthy in the home goal did well to get down and touch his shot round the post for a corner which came to nothing.
A few minutes later, Jamarie got away from his man once again and flashed a testing ball across goal where Sesay was waiting at the far post but he showed just enough hesitancy to enable two home defenders to crowd him out, and the chance was gone.
Half-time substitute Zaid Ouaret-Sorr was once again showing promise as he continued his development at first team level and he was combining well now with Mark Waters as we started to look a little more threatening.
Zaid certainly looks a danger from dead-ball kicks and it was one such move that finally gave us a toehold in the game as his floated ball in was glanced home by Waters with just over twenty minutes left.
But any hopes of a point disappeared into the gloom as further half-chances were not taken; Dontai Stewart played Jamarie in but he pulled his shot just wide of the post, and then put another high over the bar when well-placed. Nathan Daly had a long-range drive deflected out for a corner and Mark Waters couldn’t get on the end of a Dontai free-kick in stoppage time that flashed just past the post.
In truth, Ashford deserved the points for showing a greater team-spirit and togetherness; qualities that hitherto could have been applied to us but were sadly missing on this afternoon. It is to be hoped that we have hit the nadir with this performance, and the only way is up in forthcoming matches - if not, we could face a very long winter ahead.
T&MU : Foley, Krokhin, Hamlin, Waters, Daly, Belford (Ouaret-Sorr 45”), Williams, Clarke, Stewart, Brissett, Sesay.
SUBS NOT USED : Ceesay, Mbangui, Ilic, Moco.
Attendance : 74