MATCH REPORTS SEPTEMBER 2023
Knaphill 6 T&MU 2
Knaphill underlined their promotion credentials as they ran riot against an under-strength Terrors side, on a day that we will want to forget as quickly as possible. The hosts haven’t really figured in much of the discussion regarding play-off contenders, but this emphatic victory - their fifth in sixth league matches (one draw) - serves notice of their intentions as they went about their business quietly and efficiently, and leapfrogged Tooting in the top half of the table. Neither side had had time to settle before a long-range effort by Zac Hawker flew past Tom Theobald to give Knaphill the advantage. There was little indication of what was to come as Tooting patiently worked their way into the game, culminating in a deserved equaliser just before the half-hour as Shay Brennan collected Jamie Byatt’s pass and angled a shot beyond Jos Barker and into the far corner. But that good work was undone almost immediately as Justus Egbueri lost his attacker, and his attempts to salvage the situation resulted in a clumsy challenge and an obvious penalty kick. Adam Aziz gave Theo no chance, and the Knappers were back in front. The advantage was doubled on the stroke of half-time as Will Jacob took advantage of more hesitation in the Tooting back line and suddenly, it looked like the game was in serious danger of totally getting away from us.
That proved to be the case ten minutes into the second half as Zac Hawker ran unchallenged to net his second, and ten minutes after that it was 5-1, with Tom Drinkwater thumping in from the edge of the box. With fifteen minutes left, Jamie Byatt took advantage of Barker’s fumble which presented the player-manager with the easiest of chances which he duly rolled into an unguarded net; had Tooting managed to net again, an unlikely comeback might have suddenly looked on but it was the hosts who completed the scoring, substitute Jack Hawker joining his namesake (and relation?) on the scoresheet and leaving Tooting in disarray.
T&MU 1 Spelthorne Sports 3
A strangely disjointed showing by the Terrors saw Spelthorne Sports run out surprisingly comfortable winners as we slumped to our second home loss of the league campaign. That didn’t look likely early on, as we went on to the front foot from the word go and almost took the lead with our first attack. Shay Brennan showed good skills to work space down the left flank, and then crossed towards Kieran Campbell who was advancing into the box. Kieran beat the keeper to the ball, but couldn’t keep his header down and it flew over the bar. However, we were a goal down shortly afterward as Spelthorne scored from their first attack. Some lacklustre defending at the back allowed Jamie Fuller too much time and space to turn, and he picked his spot past Tom Theobald. We were almost on terms before the break, some good work by Joel Drew presented Shay with an opening, but his side footed shot went just wide, and Warren Colman gave Kieran an opportunity to volley but he couldn’t generate the power needed to trouble the keeper. With half-time approaching, Jayden Hutchings advanced upfield for a corner and sent a powerful header against the crossbar; we looked the more likely to score at this point.
However, the match turned early in the second half when Tooting shouts for a penalty after Kieran was unceremoniously shoved to the floor were ignored; the referee had no hesitation as play switched to the other end and a similar challenge from Justus Egbueri resulted in a spot-kick, driven empathically home by Kelvin Karanja. As the game entered the last ten minutes, hopes of a point were rekindled as Shay took advantage of confusion in the visiting penalty area to seize on the loose ball and halve the deficit, but all that optimism was undone moments later when Jamie Fuller ran through several half-hearted defensive challenges to fire home his second, and the visitors third.
Tadley Calleva 0 T&MU 1
A goal in the dying minutes ensured the Terrors safely negotiated a difficult journey to the Hampshire countryside, and returned with a vital three points in the bag. With skipper Alex Penfold missing once again because of his ankle problem, and top scorer Shay Brennan unavailable due to work commitments, this was a thoroughly professional performance by the visitors; it is fair to say we rode our luck a little in a first half in which our hosts hit the inside of a post and the underside of the bar, but once we took control of the midfield, we started to dominate the game and ran out deserved victors.
Tadley’s main threat seemed to be from set pieces, of which they gained quite a few in the early stages. Tom Theobald was in commanding form, taking plenty of catches confidently, and getting down low on a couple of occasions to deal with shots. From one of these saves, the ball fell to a home striker whose firmly hit effort bounced off the inside of the post and back into the grateful arms of Theo. There were shouts for a penalty when Kieran Campbell broke onto a lovely through pass from Warren Colman, tried to take it past the keeper and was brought down but the referee wasn’t impressed and waved play on. Theo was called into action again shortly after when he made a useful stop from a speculative long-range shot, and Robert Daye - making his first start - was unlucky not to get a touch on Sid Dack’s cross as the play dovetailed from end to end.
Tadley ended the half on top as a rising drive crashed against the bar and bounced down, and Lewis Gonsalves almost headed into his own net but Theo showed great reactions to save his team-mate’s blushes. As the teams departed for their half-time break, there was a feeling amongst the fans that the second 45 might belong to us - the perception was that Tadley’s failure to take their chances may prove costly.
That seemed to be the case as, marshalled superbly once again by Jayden Hutchings and Deji Adeosun - assisted by the tireless running of Warren Colman - we gradually tightened the screw as the second half unfolded, before hitting them with a sucker punch as the clock ticked down. We were aided by the hosts being reduced to ten as a home player saw red for a second bookable offence with about ten minutes left. This gave us the numerical advantage which we exploited when a corner in the last minute of regulation time was played short to Kieran Campbell on the edge of the box, and the stand-in skipper floated a beauty over the mass of bodies in the six-yard box and the desperately backpedalling keeper who couldn’t keep it out. Tadley attempted to mount some pressure in the short time that remained, but the Terrors were in no mood to let these points slip away.
T&MU 4 Guildford City 1
A four-goal salvo from Shay Brennan - his second such haul of the campaign - took his personal tally to twelve for the season, as he led the Terrors to a stunning victory against the league leaders.
Guildford arrived with five wins out of five in the league, and full of the confidence that such a run brings. They left with their tails between their legs, having been thoroughly outplayed by a Tooting side fired up to erase the memory of the previous week's capitulation against Alton.
The visitors started on the front foot, with Tula Ajayi-Obe heading a corner over the bar early on, but once Tooting went in front, they were never really in it after that.
New signing James Reed looked impressive on his debut; on nine minutes he cleanly and brilliantly dispossessed Jack Cleevely in the middle of the park, and fed Marcus Whittaker on the right flank. As is his wont, Marcus took on and beat his marker for pace, before slipping the ball down the channel perfectly for Shay who was just inside the penalty area. There was still plenty for him to do, but he did it superbly, crashing the ball across the keeper and into the top left corner from a tight angle.
Another flowing move almost saw a second when Warren Colman played an inch-perfect pass for Marcus who ran into the box, but as he tried to take it past Adam Longman, the keeper just managed to get a trailing leg to the ball to thwart the danger.
It didn't take long for the lead to be doubled, though; Sid Dack, enjoying another impressive outing, beat the offside trap with a perfectly timed pass which left Shay in acres of space. He slotted it under the advancing keeper for his second of the afternoon.
Tooting continued to press and another through-ball found Jamie Byatt on the edge of the area, but his shot lacked power or direction and the keeper safely held.
Nathaniel Mensah, who enjoyed a brief spell in the black and white stripes two seasons ago, was Guildford's most impressive player, and he was constantly trying to make things happen on a sweltering afternoon. One long run into the box was brilliantly shadowed by Sid, who made an excellently-timed clean challenge to deny the striker a shooting opportunity.
Another chance fell to the player-manager, in the starting line-up for the suspended Kieran Campbell, and this time he did better, forcing Longman into a decent save, touching the ball around his near-post for a corner.
Guildford began to come into things, and enjoyed their best spell of the game which resulted in them getting a goal back with seven minutes to go until half-time. Manny Acheampong made a break down the right and whipped a ball into the box at pace which eluded one striker, before Sid cleared for a corner as another tried to get on the end.
The corner was lifted to the far post; Tom Theobald misjudged the flight of the ball and could only help it onto the feet of Mensah, who tapped home from close range. Mindful of what had happened seven days prior, a collective gloom seemed to envelop the home support.
They needn't have worried; there wasn't long to go until the break, but there was still time for Shay to complete his hat-trick, then add a fourth for good measure. Firstly, Marcus again found space down the right, and crossed into the danger zone. Shay was covered by two defenders, yet still had the ability to control, turn past both, and fire past Longman seemingly in one fluent movement. 3-1.
Then, a Guildford attack was broken up by the impressive Dej Adeosun, who lifted the ball forward. Jamie flicked it on to Shay on the edge of the box, who beautifully lobbed the advancing (and shell-shocked) Longman to make it 4-1.
Guildford City did attempt to adopt a more attacking stance in the second period - their counter-attacking set-up had been a failure, after all - but Tooting defended very well, under the circumstances, to restrict them to long-range efforts which never really troubled Theo in goal.
Wisely, we weren't over-extending ourselves in a bid for further goals - probably a sensible reaction to the Alton match - but as the game went on, and it became evident City were tiring in the heat, there were one or two chances to really put the seal on an impressive showing; Guildford sub Callum Sullivan was almost pressured into an own-goal as his back-header flew past Longman but just over the bar, and impressive home sub Justus Egbueri - in only his second first-team outing after impressing this season for the U23s - did not look overawed as he headed just over from a corner.
But the damage had been done in the first-half, and Tooting were largely content to protect the lead and see things out as we eased to a comfortable, though hugely impressive, three points.
T&MU 3 Alton 4
Combined Counties League, Premier Division (south), Saturday 2 September 2023
There have been many remarkable games seen in this stadium over the past twenty years, but this may well rank as quite the most extraordinary as a Terrors side, seemingly in complete control of the game, somehow contrived to throw away a three goal lead, against a side ultimately reduced to nine players. As supporters, we think we’ve seen it all - but this may well rank as the biggest shooting-oneself-in-the-foot exercise yet. At least until the next one.
The team looked full of confidence at the start, against a side with only one point and one goal from their three previous league outings, and Marcus Whittaker’s run and cross provided an opening for Shay Brennan, who saw his header drop just wide of the target.
The same combination started the move which led to the Terrors taking the lead. In the 23rd minute. Shay was this time hauled unceremoniously to the floor before he had the chance to shoot, and the referee had no option but to award the penalty. By the letter of the law, he probably had no option but to send the offending player off too - although it still seemed a bit harsh. Either way, Alton were down to ten.
Kieran Campbell took the spot-kick, and drilled it home for his sixth goal of the season.
There was no let-up in the home side’s dominance, and ten minutes later it was two when a ball lifted into the box found Shawn Lyle advancing goalwards; a combination of keeper and defender thwarted him, but the loose ball fell to Warren Colman who emphatically drilled home from just inside the area. When Shay added a third, six minutes before the break after a fine move and cross-on-the-run from Sid Dack, it was surely just a question of how many Tooting would win by.
However, a soft penalty just before half-time gave the visitors a lifeline - Owen Lumsden netting from the spot - and set the scene for a sobering second 45 minutes, from a home supporter’s point of view.
Tooting could still have been further out of sight, when early in the second half, a corner taken by Marcus was drilled against the underside of the bar by Kieran - 4-1 there would surely have been asking too much of the visitors - but the ball bounced out and Alton broke straight up the other end, the move being finished off by Adam New who brought them back to just one behind.
Ten minutes later, they were level; some more sloppy play at the back left Louis Keiran-Russell in acres of space and he wasn’t going to pass up the chance of glory.
Tempers got heated amongst the home fans, and that translated itself onto the pitch where things threatened to boil over. When Alton went down to nine after Jamie Phillips saw red, surely they would just pile their few remaining players behind the ball?
Not likely, they could sense panic in the home ranks and substitute Mohammed Regragui took advantage to bundle in the winner.
To compound a bleak afternoon, Kieran Campbell then saw a second yellow card for simulation to leave the game ending at ten against nine and Tooting in tatters.