TOBY Adekunle is living proof that flair players and bog-like pitches need not necessarily be a marriage made in hell.
The AFC Totton winger defied the heavy conditions to play a part in all three goals in a gutsy 3-0 Evo-Stik South West victory at Barnstaple Town on Tuesday.
Having slogged their way through a goalless first half on what manager Louis Langdown described as “another rugby pitch”, the Stags came good after the break with Adekunle setting up Callum Chugg and Craig Feeney before scoring direct from a corner.
“Toby not only attacked well, but he defended well too on the kind of pitch where you don’t expect the flair players to turn up,” said Langdown.
“We said at the start of the game that we needed those players to show a different side to their game – and they did.
“Barnstaple have always been a big side but this was the first time we’ve probably been as big as the other team.
“We felt at half-time that we could score from set-pieces, but we didn’t expect Toby to take it literally when his corner went straight in!
“I’m pleased for Toby and also for Chuggy in opening his goal account with a header from a corner. We know set- plays can be a strength for us too and we haven’t scored enough of them, if I’m honest. But I have no doubt we will moving forward.”
Tuesday was Totton’s fourth away game on the bounce in league and cup – three wins and one draw, all on energy-sapping surfaces.
Having arrived home from North Devon at 2am, the fifth-placed Stags are looking forward to getting back on home soil against Kidlington on Saturday(3pm).
“Four away games in ten days is an arduous task for any team,” said the boss.
“We’ve played two Bristol clubs and one Devon club in the league and even the Russell Cotes Cup trip to Fleet wasn’t easy because of the traffic – plus it was snowing in Basingstoke that night.
“For many reasons Tuesday’s was probably our best result of the season.
“Factor in that it was the only game played in our league that night and that the original fixture had been the only game postponed for a waterlogged pitch, we almost felt the long midweek trip was done on purpose to see how we were going to react.
“Our lads deserve a pat on the back.
“The fitness levels of the boys and their willingness to mix it keeps our season alive.
“We couldn’t be any more proud of the learning curve of this side and their ability to carry out the game plan. “Everyone in the squad is playing their part.
“No one likes being on the bench when you’ve Travelled that distance and given up half a day at work, but we’ve managed to keep everyone involved.”
With striker Tony Lee and left-back Ian Oliver due back from suspension this weekend and long-serving frontman Nathaniel Sherborne available again, Langdown will have even more players to keeper happy.
On-loan Aldershot Town midfielder Matt Bozier took a heavy whack in the closing stages at Barnstaple, resulting in a red card for sub Karl Rickard.
But 17-year-old Bozier is made of strong stuff, despite his slender build, and Langdown reckons he will be okay.
“Boze weighs about eight stone wet through,” he smiled. “He’s only 17 and he’d played three 90 minutes in seven days when their lad’s gone over the top of the ball and been sent off.
“But you can see with Matt that he doesn’t mind a tackle even through he’s a beanpole. He trains with Aldershot every day and has good awareness.
“He could see that tackle coming and managed to evade it a bit. Bruising aside, he should be fine. He’s handling the physical side of the Southern League admirably.”
*Second-placed Salisbury play Barnstaple on Saturday at the Ray Mac (3pm).
Steve Claridge’s on-song side will be gunning for their eighth straight league win.
Source : DailyEcho