AFC Totton 1 Winchester City 3
STUART Green took centre stage on his return from injury as Winchester City ushered in the new year with their sixth win in seven league games.
The classy midfielder brought a smile to manager Ian Saunders' face, scoring twice in the 3-1 derby victory at AFC Totton which took his side back to tenth in the Southern One South & West.
Saunders, though, couldn’t help but think of what might have been had Green and 24-goal top scorer Craig Feeney been available for last week's 1-0 home defeat by Wimborne which blotted City’s festive copybook.
“It wasn’t much of a spectacle today, but the real bits of quality came from us,” said Saunders.
“Green and Feeney gave us energy, ably assisted by everyone else in the side. Having them back was good today, but it makes me even more frustrated that we didn’t have them for the Wimborne game.”
Although Totton competed well on an afternoon when referee Alexander Fisher mystifyingly threw yellow cards around like confetti, City carried the greater goal threat.
Winchester’s tenth-minute opener followed a lightning-fast break after Totton’s on-loan AFC Bournemouth full-back Connor York had twice played dangerous balls into their box.
Within a flash, alarm were ringing at the other end and, although Stags keeper Charlie Searle parried Feeney’s initial shot, Green greedily gobbled up the rebound.
Totton hit back four minutes later when, having pushed up for a set-piece, towering defender Jack Vallis headed the ball down for Nathaniel Sherborne to stab home.
The remaining first-half chances were mainly Winchester’s, although it needed great awareness from Adam Tomasso to stop Marley Ridge cashing in on Sherborne’s stoppage-time delivery.
Totton carried that momentum into the second half but, against the run of play, Green struck again, nipping onto Andy Jenkinson’s pass on the left and firing home via the far post.
Another excellent tackle, this time from Stuart Mott on sub Ashley Jarvis, kept City’s lead intact and, with 20 minutes to go, the visitors began stamping their authority again.
Searle’s sprawling save denied Joe Briggs from Howard Neighbour’s 70th-minute cross but, seven minutes later, Jack Vallis’s back pass sold Searle short and Briggs capitalised on the confusion to walk the ball into the empty net.
For Totton boss Louis Langdown, it wasn’t the most attractive spectacle for the 360-strong Testwood Stadium crowd.
“It was an ugly game of football and, unfortunately, we were a bit uglier than them,” he summed up.
“We’re lacking a bit of quality in the final third and that’s hurting us. We can’t always rely on defenders to get us points.”
Encouragingly for the third-to-bottom Stags, the teams below them, Wantage and Bridgwater, suffered hefty 5-0 defeats.
AFC Totton: Charlie Searle, Connor York, Ian Oliver, Neil Williams, Jack Vallis, Dave Allen, Marley Ridge (Alfy Whittingham, 60), Adam Wilde (Ashley Jarvis, 60), Nathaniel Sherborne, Charlie Gunson (Ben Cooper, 78), Mike Gosney. Subs (not used): Sam Roberts, Nick Watts.
Winchester City: Lewis Noice, Adam Tomasso, Jamie Ford, Jamie Barron, Robbie Matthews, Stuart Mott, Joe Briggs (Jason Silver, 90), Stuart Green, Craig Feeney, Howard Neighbour, Andy Jenkinson (Taz Roberts, 78). Subs (not used): Jack Hannam, IK Hill, Matt Benham.
Referee: Alexander Fisher.