The ground itself is compact to say the least. As you approach down the lane the clubhouse is directly in front of you with parking for, I assume, players, officials and members. Further parking is available on a track that runs alongside the pitch and also behind the fence that backs the opposite goal from the clubhouse. This fence looks like it has been erected fairly recently, I imagine after the club was refused entry to the Southern League after winning the Hellenic League in 2010-11.
I chose to park directly behind the dugouts (for some protection from stray clearances) on the track that runs alongside the ground. Directly opposite this is the covered seating area and also some covered standing sections. Overall, it is a decent, tidy little stadium but has very little room for expansion which I suppose could be a problem if the team progresses through the leagues.
The game kicked off with Totton attacking down the slight slope, and it was the visitors who had the best of the opening spell. However, shortly after Totton hit the bar for the first time (there were more to come), Wantage broke and, when the Stags keeper spilled the ball, on loan Swindon Town player Matt Jones stroked the ball home. 1-0 to Wantage and a place in the record books for Jones, scoring the home side's first ever goal at this level.
Shortly afterwards the same striker almost hit a second when a vicious shot from the edge of the area clipped the bar on it's way over.
Despite the home side making a good start, these two teams were two divisions apart last season and the experience of the away team was beginning to show as the gradually worked their way back into it. Sure enough, on 37 minutes a flowing Wantage move finally saw a right-wing cross headed home by front-man Craig Feeney. There was still time for Wantage to have another goal ruled out for handball (harshly in the view of the home crowd, although I didn't have a clear view myself), but the sides went in level at 1-1. A fair reflection of the first half.
Into the second half and Totton came out looking like a team that had had a rocket in the interval. Almost immediately they, once again, hit the bar and then forced home keeper Lee Farrow into two very good saves to deny them. The Totton forward pairing of Feeney and Sherbourne were giving the home defence a lot to think about. Their movement off the ball was starting to create more and more space for the midfield to exploit.
Don't get me wrong though, Wantage were by no means out of this match. They too were creating a few chances as the match swung from end to end for a fair portion of the second half. Giant striker Jimmy Deabill came very close with a header before Totton once again struck the bar (with the help of a Farrow fingertip), for the third time in the match.
Then came the decisive moment. The referee, who I have to say was having a very poor evening all round, gave another very debateable free-kick to Totton. After already hitting the bar 3 times and putting a couple over the top, the Totton management team were screaming to make sure they hit the target this time. The ball was rolled short to Liam Gilbert who struck the ball very cleanly from 20 yards or so. This time the ball hit the underside of the bar, bounced down and back out again. The assistant on the far side immediately signalled that it had crossed the line, much to the annoyance of the home team and officials. From where I was standing, close to the dugouts, it was impossible to tell if it had gone in or not. Either way, it was harsh on the home side who had given everything they had to hold onto the point.
They did have enough time to create two more chances, one of which was cleared off the line, but it wasn't quite enough for them to gain their first Southern League points.
I'm sure that Wantage will get something soon. Considering that they lost the majority of the Hellenic League winning squad prior to the start of this season, they work hard and create chances. Totton, in the end, just had too much nous for them, especially going forward.
WantageTown - @wantagetownfc
AFC Totton - @afctotton