AFC Totton 0 Taunton Town 4 (6th January 2018)
The cold and a touch of laziness dictated that Totton, about an hour away by car, was about as far as I fancied going this day. A visit to Totton’s ground also added the small time thrill of being able to have a look at the neighbouring ground of Totton & Eling, just 50 yards away down the same road. Being a relatively basic ground, it was a difficult one to milk too much visual joy from seeing, but it was good for the novelty, if nothing else.
Totton’s ground is quite new, and as such normally means a good bar and other facilities, but an incredibly dull ground. At Totton, while hardly exuding charm, it does earn itself a few brownie points by having a few steps of decent terracing, allowing a better than normal view, and a main stand that looks better than most at this level. A covered area of bench seating on the opposite side looks like it has benches from the 1930s though, with red & white warning stickers all over the low roof beams to ward off the danger of fans braining themselves as they walk through the stand.
It felt a hospitable club, with cheap beer and food, which they even serve on proper plates with metal cutlery, and I was also fortunate enough to buy the last programme. It wasn’t much of a read, with 18 of the last 21 pages being adverts, but it did the job while waiting for kick off.
Taunton arrived clear at the top of the table, backed by a contingent of noisy fans. The home fans could hardly compete. One stood there with a tiny Bodhran drum, banging away with little effect. “Is that a tambourine?” sang the Taunton fans at him, along with a rendition of “Hey Mr Tambourine man, play a song for me…” before realising they didn’t know any more of the words.
The hospitality, unfortunately for the home fans, extended onto the pitch as well. Totton didn’t really get into gear until it was far too late, possibly unsettled by conceding inside ten minutes, when a cross was flicked past the home keeper from close range.
The afternoon wouldn’t get much better for the home keeper. There’d already been an altercation between him and a Taunton player who trod on his foot – to me, intentionally – who he then called “fat”. Given that the keeper himself looked like he’d “enjoyed his Christmas food” over the last week or two, this wasn’t ideal, and he got mocked for his apparently bouncing man boobs for the rest of the game.
While Taunton weren’t quite peppering the goal, Totton were doing next to nothing in the final third, and Taunton always looked like getting the second, which they did 10 minutes before the end of the half. It was so cold that few fans showed a flicker of reaction to it, with thoughts already turned to the warmth of the club bar.
After 15 minutes of thawing out, there was no doubt a sense that if Totton could get into the game early, there was still a chance. That optimism didn’t last long. Two minutes in, and a blocked Taunton shot looped goalwards and nobody at the back for Totton reacted. It dropped into the path of a Taunton player six yards out, and he knocked the ball in, scarcely able to believe nobody was challenging him. A few older fans grumbled it was “definitely offside”, but before they’d even managed to wind up for a full old man whinge, it was 4-0.
This time Taunton got behind the back four on the right hand side, and squared the ball across the box, where it was slid into the net, to make the only question about the match being the margin of victory, not if it might happen. Again there were moans about offside, although it’s hard to tell if the were moans about this goal, or if they were still going on about the third.
From there Taunton understandably eased off, and Totton got into the game more, but without ever really coming that close to scoring. For the travelling fans now, it was just about enjoying the day out. “Leigh Robbo’s claret & blue army” they sang, led by a fan with probably the deepest voice in Somerset, for most of the last 20 minutes.
With the sun setting in the distance, and had long since set on any chance of points Totton had this day, fans began drifting away early, and by full time the claret & blue fans possibly outnumbered the home supporters. On this form, they should still be celebrating around May, when things should also be a little warmer.