MATCH REPORTS OCTOBER 2023
T&MU 3 Sheerwater 1
Combined Counties League, Premier Division (south), Saturday 28 October 2023
The Terrors shrugged off a half-time deficit and the second half sending off of Sid Dack to emerge as comfortable victors over struggling Sheerwater and move into the play-off spots.
This was a controlled display in which we dominated much of the first-half possession and carved out the lion’s share of the chances before a sucker-punch left us briefly floundering on the canvas as things threatened to go astray.
Thankfully, it was just a flash knockdown and the befuddled Terrors held on towards the break while their collective heads cleared, and the temporary reprieve of the bell (whistle) enabled them to turn the tide and wrest back control over the second half of the contest.
We made all of the early running, and might have led at several points during the first half; Warren Colman shot over early on, though whether it was a cross or a shot was debatable. Shay Brennan took advantage of defensive confusion to present James Reed with a shooting opportunity he drove over from the edge of the box; Justus Egbueri headed just over from a corner and visiting keeper Jack Minchin saved well from a firmly-struck Kieran Campbell effort and a close-range Blake Loyza one as it looked only a matter of time before a goal was registered.
Yet when it finally came, six minutes before the break, it was the visitors who were celebrating as Marco Haigh took advantage of Tom Theobald’s failure to collect a low drive, and couldn’t really miss from five yards out.
They had threatened just before the goal, to be fair, as a speculative curling shot from Morris Musslewhite dipped over Theo’s far post, but the advantage galvanised them while a shellshocked Tooting side suddenly looked vulnerable; Jayden Hutchings headed away from near his own goal-line under pressure from Musslewhite and skipper Nathan Pooley drove inches wide from the edge of the box as the half ended.
But that was the extent of the visitor’s attacking threat, and Tooting emerged from the tunnel determined to erase what had gone before. Shay Brennan, as he so often is, was key to the turnaround which saw two goals in a little over three minutes turn the game on its head. He’d already hit the bar after robbing a dawdling defender on the edge of the box, sending a curling effort onto the woodwork but didn’t let that disappointment frustrate him when he engaged in a chase for the ball with Minchin and a covering defender. As both advanced, Shay improvised with the outside of his right boot to arc an effort over both and into the top left corner. I was still noting the particulars in my notebook minutes later when he slipped number two past Minchin after defensive hesitation. And, after Sid Dack received a second yellow for a high challenge, (and Theo saved well down low to prevent a shock equaliser from the free-kick) Shay broke away again and showed commendable restraint to eschew the chance of a hat-trick, instead squaring the ball to his better-placed team-mate, Blake Loyza, who lashed in his second in successive matches to wrap things up.
Camberley Town 1 T&MU 4
Combined Counties League, Premier Division (south), Saturday 21 October 2023
Tooting shrugged off some difficult conditions, as well as the loss of an early goal, to ultimately run out comfortable winners and move back onto the fringes of the play-off race.
Camberley, who we last met in a competitive fixture almost a quarter of a century ago, have struggled for any kind of consistency in the early months of the season, and looked more surprised than anything when they took the lead after thirteen minutes with their first real attack. Sam Whitehead got away down the right and whipped a ball across that the Tooting defence failed to clear; there was still more than an element of misfortune on our part as the ball ended up in the net after deflecting off Sid Dack.
It did not take long for the Terrors to restore parity - the very next attack ended with an equaliser. A free-kick midway down the right side was floated across by Jayden Hutchings; Blake Loyza reacted very well to control it at the far post and drive low across the penalty area, wrongfooting the keeper as Kieran Campbell arrived at the far post to touch home from close range.
The rest of the half saw both sides have chances to add to their tallies; Leo Spicer drew a good reaction save out of Tom Theobald’s legs, and Theo was also forced to back-pedal to tip over a speculative drive at his far post from the same player.
Home keeper Stuart Norman was also being kept busy, saving down low to his right from a Kieran Campbell drive from the edge of the area and coming out of his goal to get to the ball just before Shay Brennan after a lovely through-pass from Warren Colman almost set him clear.
On the stroke of half-time, we found ourselves in front thanks to another set-piece goal; this came from the other side of the pitch, with James Reed lifting an inch-perfect cross onto the head of Lewis Gonsalves who cushioned his header expertly to guide it beyond the flailing keeper and into the bottom corner.
Tooting looked far more determined at the start of the second period, beginning to push the home side back consistently, and retaining possession well when openings didn’t immediately materialise. Camberley were becoming less and less effective, and the Terrors looked more likely to increase their tally than the hosts did to find an equaliser.
The goal our pressure deserved finally came with about twenty minutes to play; Warren Colman was flattened midway inside the Camberley half, and the ball was lifted into the box. A home defender’s attempt to head clear was weak and it fell perfectly for Warren who drove it back with interest from the edge of the six yard box to give us a two goal cushion.
Camberley rallied briefly, and piled bodies in the box for one attack which left the ball flying around the penalty area like it was in a pinball machine. In the confusion, Theo made three close-range stops in quick succession to maintain our two-goal advantage, but as time began to run out, we upped the pressure again and scored a well-worked fourth after Warren Colman drove forward, played a classy pass with the outside of his right foot to Kieran who was motoring down the right flank. He beat the covering defender and fired the ball across for Blake Loyza to open his Terror’s account with a fine first-time finish.
T&MU 0 Abbey Rangers 0
Combined Counties League, Premier Division (south), Saturday 14 October 2023
After plenty of goals in our first nine matches, we registered a second successive goalless draw in our last home outing against a stubborn Abbey Rangers side.
The visitors arrived with some confidence-boosting recent results under their belts, including a fine 2-0 win at Redhill four days previously, and showed understandable confidence early on as they pinned an under-strength Terrors side back in their own half for much of the first period.
Thankfully, Tom Theobald was on good form - saving well with his legs early on - and the defence in front of him proved they were ready for the challenge too.
The positive approach from the visitors meant Tooting spent much of the opening period playing almost like an away side, soaking up the pressure and looking to hit our opponents on the break. Warren Colman and Nathan Best were linking up well, and looking the most likely pair to make something happen.
Our best hope of scoring in the half came when new signing Blake Loyza was upended in the box, but our shouts for a penalty fell on deaf ears as the referee waved play on.
Abbey almost took the lead on the stroke of half-time, when Danilo Cadete skipped away down the left flank and crossed dangerously to the far post where Kalari Lisbie climbed highest to get a firm touch, but headed wide.
Tooting regrouped at the interval, and emerged in a more positive frame of mind for the second half. Marcus Whittaker replaced Nathan at half-time and was almost on the scoresheet in the opening minutes when he collected a cross on the far side of the penalty area but lifted his shot just over the bar.
The returning Shawn Lyle then did well to control a difficult cross just outside the box, but on turning found he had little support and was unable to do anything positive with the ball; it was a much better start to the second half though.
Abbey showed they were still dangerous when Ross Murdoch slotted home from captain Jack Watts’ low cross, but the flag was up to signal a clear offside decision.
It always looked as if one goal would be enough to win it for either side, and we had our chance when an up and under found Kieran Campbell challenging ‘keeper Sam Gray close to the goalline, with the visiting custodian getting to the ball first - just.
Abbey’s chance to nick it fell to substitute Spencer Maw, after the ball had flown around the Tooting area; Maw showed a rare touch of class on the afternoon to get hold of it and aim a curling effort toward the top corner. A diving Theo looked to have it covered, but it drifted just wide in any case as the game finished goalless - in every sense of the word.
Fleet Town 0 T&MU 0
Tooting scrapped out a point on a balmy day in the Hampshire countryside, in a game that could have gone either way but ended in our first league draw of the season. With several of the hosts’ players looking like they might be more at home in a basketball team, it was fairly obvious from the word ‘go’ that an aerial assault would be on the agenda for the Terrors’ back line and, marshalled superbly by Jayden Hutchings - not the tallest centre-half around - we coped admirably well to return home with a clean-sheet. It was Tooting who carved out the games’ first chance, a little over a minute in, when the lively Nathan Best showed good feet to skip past a couple of home defenders down the left but his low cross in found nobody far enough forward to threaten the home keeper. Deji Adeosun, coming off a fine game in midweek, needed to be prominent again - and was when he got a crucial foot in to dispossess Connor Young who was bearing down on the Tooting goal.
Not surprisingly, the hosts best chances were coming from set pieces and they forced a series of corners all of which were confidently dealt with by Tom Theobald and his back four. A pleasing passage of play almost saw us in front; Sam Orisatoki was showing up well as an attacking full-back down the left and his whipped ball in was taken down neatly by Kieran Campbell, attacking the far post, but with no real angle to shoot from he laid the ball back into the path of James Reed on the edge of the box who took a touch to wrong-foot his marker, then measured an effort which dipped just wide of the post. Johnny Akoto was building on his excellent midweek outing and got in several important blocks and interceptions when Fleet were looking dangerous, as the half ended goalless.
Early in the second period, either side might have broken the deadlock as a deep cross was headed just over at our end, then Nathan attacked again down the left, sent over a cross which was just too high for Warren Colman but Sonic arriving at the far post got a clean touch, putting his effort just over the bar. Despite Callum Smart in the home goal not really being forced into a save of note, Tooting continued to look the more likely to nick something as the half unfolded, but almost lost it at the death. The match was in stoppage time when the hosts mounted an attack down the left side; for once Johnny was unable to get a meaningful challenge in, an attacker cut inside him and shot for goal which solicited a large roar from the home fans who thought it had gone in. So did many travelling Terrors at the other end but thankfully it had nestled in the side netting, and our point was secured.
Brook House 0 T&MU 2
It may ‘only have been the League Cup’, but it was imperative that the Terrors got a positive result after two consecutive defeats in the league, and a difficult trip to Fleet looming four days later. In that regard, this can certainly be ticked off as ‘job done’, after goals from two recent signings, Nathan Best and James Reed, eased us comfortably into the second round against our Step 6 opponents. It might not have been as straightforward as the scoreline suggests had we not had the wake-up call of a disallowed goal going against us early on, as the hosts - clearly more at home on the bobbly surface, and under the very dim floodlights - went straight on to the attack. They thought they’d gone in front after just eight minutes but a close range strike found the Assistant Referee’s flag already up before it hit the back of the net, curtailing their exuberant celebrations. Tooting heeded the warning, and began to make inroads into the Brook House half with Nathan Best looking lively, Dej Adeosun linking up with James Reed (a flourishing partnership could be developing nicely there) and skipper-on-the-night Shay Brennan looking in the mood to add to his already considerable goal tally; Shay, indeed, was already working the keeper, forcing him out to block on more than one occasion as the Terrors outfoxed a rather primitive ‘offside trap’.
With no programme or teamsheet provided - and little forthcoming from the home side’s Social Media accounts - I am not able to give the keeper his due by naming him here, but he was certainly the main reason they managed to retain parity for so long, making some eye-catching saves and blocks to deny Deji, Johnny Akoto (enjoying, I thought, his best game in a Tooting shirt so far), Shay and Nathan, who all threatened. When he was beaten, by Robert Daye’s strike from distance, the striker’s shot was powerful and well-hit, but he couldn’t match that with direction and it dropped just wide. It looked like the half would finish goalless, when on the stroke of half-time, Nathan Best - arguably the half’s most impressive player - outpaced his marker and slipped the ball underneath the oncoming keeper to give us the advantage.
With visibility poor in the murky gloom, the home side emerged for the second period in different shirts - a far more striking shade of pink enabling them to identify each other better - and it nearly paid dividends in the early stages when Piotr Jachucha (making his Tooting debut in place of Tom Theobald) was called into action twice to make important blocks, having been a spectator for much of the first 45. Once again, Tooting learnt their lesson and re-imposed themselves, and it looked only a matter of time before the lead was doubled; this duly occurred with about twenty minutes left when James Reed curled in a beautiful free-kick, and progression looked assured. But we don’t like to do things the easy way, and a third penalty against us in successive matches (difficult to ascertain why in this light, but shouts of ‘handball!’ probably give a clue) threatened to derail us, but the taker clearly had his own visibility issues as he blasted it so far over it would probably have cleared three goals had they been standing atop one another; there was just time for Piotr to make another fine save up high to his left, before the nights work was complete.