Totternhoe play their home games at the Totternhoe Recreation Ground on the Eastern edge of the village heading towards Dunstable. There is a fair sized car park behind the club house and plenty of parking in the surrounding streets if necessary. The clubhouse block also incorporates the players and official's changing areas and is situated behind the Dunstable Road end goal. There is covered standing in front of the clubhouse block, known as the Jim Basterfield Stand, named after the Totternhoe legend who stepped down as Club Secretary in June 2020 after 60 years with the club. There are dugouts on the far side of the ground, which appear to be removeable and are put in place before each game. On the Dunstable Road side, where there is also a children's playground, and behind the far goal, the playing area is ring-fenced by a white post and bar barrier. The pitch has a slight slope back towards the car park end and, following the recent weather, was heavy but in better condition than I expected to see (especially as so many games had been postponed in the last couple of days).
This game was very much a local derby being only just over 5 miles apart. A little bit of research also showed that, effectively, the two grounds are on the same road, Dunstable Road.
Both of these clubs are founder members of the Spartan South Midlands Senior Division and, since the 2004-05 season, have both played in the same division every season, Division Two. Since that time, overall, it is Totternhoe who have the more consistent form having finished in the top half more often than not. However, it is The 61FC who can boast of winning the division, a feat achieved in the 2008-09 season (they also won Division 1 back in the 1980-81 season). Totternhoe have also won Division One, back in 1961-62
Looking back over recent results, Totternhoe certainly hold sway, without a defeat in the last nine league meetings going back to the 2015-16 season. During that period Totts have won seven times with two games ending in a stalemate. The most recent meeting, in the abandoned 2019-20 season, finished The 61FC 0 Totternhoe 2, although the visitors finished the game with 10 men after Dereece O'Callaghan was sent off.
Coming into the game Totternhoe sat in 45th spot, with 29 points from their 16 outings. The 61 were down in 13th spot with 12 points from their 17 games. However, last time out, they did manage a very good 2-1 victory over Risborough Rangers Dev. with goals from Temitayo Akerele and Elijah Babalola. Totternhoe also came into the game on the back of a 2-1 win, away at bottom side Tring Corinthians. This came on the back of consecutive defeats to high-flying Eynesbury United, 2-0 away and 2-1 at home.
This game started with an absolute bang. Only just over 30 seconds had gone when the visitors keeper was forced to race off his line in an attempt to get to a ball into the box first. He failed, catching the Totternhoe striker and sending him sprawling in the box. Penalty to Totternhoe but, luckily for the visitors, the ball was far enough wide of the goal to not be classed as preventing a clear goal scoring opportunity. Callum Horgan, who was himself to have a very interesting and mixed game, stepped up and slotted the ball home. 1-0
Almost immediately after the restart Totternhoe had the ball back again, breaking down the right. A searching ball into the penalty area found the rampaging left-back Riley Keeble who met it on the volley, stroking the ball just wide of the post. Two minutes later only the intervention of The 61's number 2, heading off the line, prevented Totternhoe from increasing their lead. The home side could easily have been three to the good within the opening 5 or 6 minutes. However, urged on by their captain, The 61 began to steady the ship and stemmed the flow of home attacks. So much so that, in the 12th minute, they were back on level terms. Aron Griffin rode a couple of challenges, burst into the box and slid the ball past Palmer to make it 1-1.
What a start to the game but, as so often happens, neither could sustain the end to end action. Maybe both sides wanted to steady themselves but the game did fizzle out a little with neither side able to gain the upper hand.
HT Totternhoe 1 The 61FC 1. A blistering start from the home side but they ran out of ideas a little once the visitors woke up. The majority of the half was a fairly even contest on a pitch that started to cut up especially in the centre where most of the action took place.
Just before the hour mark the 61 keeper was called into action again when a long ball evaded all defenders and ran into the path of Nic Palmer. His dipping drive was palmed away by the keeper, although it may have just been creeping wide anyway. Just past the hour mark it was the turn of Totternhoe keeper Tom Palmer to show his skills, stretching his frame well to tip over a looping effort that may well have just dropped in below the bar. Five minutes later the hosts increased their led and, once again, it was a corner form the left that did the damage. This time the ball was not cleared and captain Johnny Butler was on hand to swivel and fire a left-foot effort past the keeper. 3-1.
Inside the final 20 minutes Totternhoe produced the most fluid move of the game, two or three one-touch passes resulting in Woolaway bursting into the box and lifting the ball over the advancing keeper only to see his effort strike the upright and stay out. There was a moment of hesitation from both the keeper and covering defender before the keeper gratefully dropped on the loose ball before any attackers could react. If that move had resulted in a goal it would certainly have killed the game off. However, three minutes after almost going 4-1 down The 61 produced a good move of their own to pull one back. The ball eventually threaded through to Kaleem Lewis who slotted under the keeper calmly. 3-2
From that point onwards, The 61 threw everything they had at Totternhoe, despite not having any substitutes on the bench and the pitch being heavy, they gave it all they had. In the final minute they won a free-kick just outside the box to the right of the goal. Even their keeper was pushed up. Then all hell broke loose in the box. The home keeper made one close range save, the ball seemed to be scrambled off the line as it pinballed around with pretty much every player seemingly inside the 6 yard box. Finally the referee blew his whistle and signalled a free-kick awards for a foul on the home keeper and that was it. Game over.
FT Totternhoe 3 The 61FC 2. A very hard-earned three points for the home side but, as I said my tweet at the time, even the most hardened Totternhoe supporter must have been full of admiration for the way the visitors kept going today. They had no substitutes, went behind inside a minute, could easily have been 3 down after 6 minutes and then went 3-1 down with 20 minutes to go. A lot of teams would have crumbled but The 61 were still pushing for an equaliser in the very last seconds of the game. Impressive. Next up for Totternhoe is another local derby as they welcome Pitstone & Ivinghoe on Monday. It's a longer break for The 61 who don't have a game scheduled until the visit of Tring Corinthians on the 15th.
Note that a couple of the photos included in this blog were not taken by myself. They are the fine work of Leyah Maddix. You can see a selection of her other photos on Flickr (click to link to her albums) or follow her on Instagram: @maddxsp. Many thanks to Leyah for allowing me to use a couple of her shots on this blog.
Totternhoe: T.Palmer, Kent, Keeble, Loasby, Horgan, Butler(c), Taylor, Connolly, Woolaway, Capehorn, Adam. Suns: Alexander, N.Palmer, Beary
The 61FC: Akerele, Bintuuka, Debola, Griffin, Lewis, Boffah, Posso, Reinsford, Rourke, Sahif, Sharpe
Ground Number: 297