2016/2017 Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 1st April 2017
Imperial Fields (KNK Stadium)
Hello and welcome to The Football Journey!
After going all the way to Liverpool last week, I wanted to look for something more local and much cheaper to go to this week. With Tooting & Mitcham United offering free entry for their encounter against South Park, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to cool things down a little bit in terms of cost, whilst also witnessing a decent level of football.
A week and a half ago, I went to Dulwich Hamlet's 3-0 win over Havant & Waterlooville and I questioned whether it might be South London's best non-league team, so this was a great chance for the boys from Imperial Fields to show what they had to offer. Obviously, my opinion isn't groundbreaking or anything, but you get the gist.
|Outside of the ground|
With just five games left this season in the Ryman League Division One South, things are looking very promising for Tooting & Mitcham United. Sitting in top spot with an impressive 95 points, the Terrors also have the best offensive record in the league, having scored a crazy 115 goals prior to this game. Moreover, they are still in the London Senior Cup, with a huge quarter-final away at the aforementioned Dulwich Hamlet coming up next Thursday. A big month for them indeed.
Although they still need to see out the league title and seal promotion, it's fair to say it has been a rather successful campaign for the hosts so far, and this is mainly due to their recent run of form. The side from Morden have won 11 of their last 12 matches at home, as well as 14 out of their last 15 league games!
However, they did lose their most recent encounter, suffering a shock 2-0 loss at Horsham last weekend so they would've been looking to turn that around here.
The visitors, South Park, went into this one with a respectable total of 61 points, which had earned them 11th place in the league standings. You may think that's pretty mediocre, but The Sparks actually have 3 games in hand, and if they manage to win all of those, they'll move onto 70 points - just 4 away from the play-off spots.
It wasn't going be easy when you consider their recent form though, as the side from Reigate had only won once in their last six league games prior to this one, suffering four losses in the process.
|The main stand from across the pitch|
Tooting & Mitcham United welcomed Ashley Robinson back into the squad for the first time since he sustained a foot injury against Godalming Town five weeks ago, but were missing Eddie Dines who was unavailable to play (don't ask why, I have no clue!)
In football you should always try to win every time you go out onto the pitch, but with a much more winnable game against 22nd placed Chatham Town on Monday night, I wouldn't have been surprised if South Park made that their main priority. With 4 games (including this one) coming up in the next 7 days for today's visitors, boss Malcolm Porter would've had some tough choices to make in terms of who should start and who should hit the bench.
Having looked at some statistics before the game, I was instantly expecting plenty of goals. The last meeting between these two earlier this season produced a seven-goal thriller, in which the Terrors came out as 4-3 winners. In addition to that, Tooting & Mitcham's Billy Dunn (26) and Michael Dixon (21) have found the back of the net 47 times between them in the league this season!
Do you blame me for wanting an absolute goal-fest?
|Handshakes before the game|
Unfortunately, you don't always get what you want in life, and I didn't exactly get a goal-fest here as there were only 2 goals in this game, which were both scored by Tooting & Mitcham United.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that the first 45 minutes produced the worst half of football I've seen this season, if not ever. Honestly, it was physically painful to watch at times. It was very stop-start and neither side managed to gain control of proceedings, as both teams continuously kept on dispossessing one another.
The only chance of the half came when Tooting & Mitcham United skipper Sol Patterson-Bohner let out his inner Diego Maradona and went on a crazy run into the opponent's final third, all the way from centre-back. Eventually, his through ball found the feet of Mike Dixon who ended up one-on-one with South Park goalkeeper Callum Thomas, but the ball seemed to bobble in front of him on the uneven surface, and his resulting effort went over the bar.
The second period wasn't a corker either, but on the bright side, I got to see a couple of goals!
The hosts started brightly, with Chace O'Neill finding Mike Dixon inside the box, but the striker could only shank his effort wide of the goal.
It was third time lucky for the Tooting forward just before the sixty-minute mark though, after full-back Taiwo Adebowale found himself with acres of space inside the box on the left-hand side. He managed to square the ball into the six-yard box, and found Mike Dixon who easily tapped the ball into an empty net for his 22nd goal of the season, whilst also putting his side 1-0 up in the process.
|South Park's Harry Knock getting ready to take a throw-in|
The man himself, Billy Dunn, was replaced by Jack Mazzone shortly after, and it was the substitute who sealed the victory for the hosts just five minutes later.
A brilliant team goal saw Chace O'Neill's pass find the feet of Mike Dixon, and after some strong hold-up play, he spread the ball out wide to Dan Clements. The winger's clever low cross into the box was met by the right boot of newly introduced Jack Mazzone, who struck the ball past the two defenders on the goal-line and into the back of the net, sealing all three points for his side in what was a crucial victory!
|Chace O'Neill's pass to Mike Dixon in the build-up to the second goal|
Tooting & Mitcham: Merson, J. Wilson, Patterson-Bohner (c), Rowe, Adebowale, MacLaren, O'Neill; Dunn (Mazzone 72'); Clements, Dixon, Hoban (Cunningham 64')
Bookings: Wilson, MacLaren, Rowe
Unused subs: Bennett, C. Wilson, Robinson
Manager: Frank Wilson
South Park: Thomas; Knock (McElligott 65'), Rixon-Nicholls, Merchant (c), Elliott; Ayling, Lovegrove, Moody; King (Senior 84'), Quartey (Jackson 74'), Smith
Bookings: Quartey, Thomas
Unused subs: Gill, Dixon
Manager: Malcolm Porter
As I implied in the match report, the game itself was pretty diabolical, especially in the first half. The second half did get a little better and it did provide two goals, but the game as a whole wasn't as enjoyable as I was hoping it would be. I guess I can't complain though... I did get in for free after all!
From Tooting & Mitcham's point of view, I highly doubt they cared about the lack of entertainment they provided for the supporters during the game purely because when you're trying to win any league title, it doesn't matter how you perform as long as you pick up the full set of points every game. That's exactly what happened today - a non-entertaining performance from the Terrors, but a vital three points in the bag.
|Handshakes after the game|
This was my second visit to Imperial Fields, but the first in daytime, and I must say I'm a huge fan of it as a whole. I sat in the main stand, and the view from it is one of the best I have experienced at non-league level. It's not often you can see the entire pitch with no objects (like pillars) getting in the way, so Imperial Fields definitely has my approval! The two terraces behind the goals are identical, which give the ground an aesthetically pleasing symmetrical look. Top class stuff.
Overall, I feel like the game could've been much better than it ended up being, but I did get to see two goals for free so it would be stupid for me to complain!
Surely Tooting & Mitcham United will seal the league title now?
INTERESTING FACT: The Terrors now only need two more points in order to reach a total of 100 for the season!
Match rating: 3.8/10
Atmosphere rating: 4.5/10
Stadium rating: 7.2/10
Overall rating: 5.2/10
Thank you to TLFG for letting me know about this game - I wouldn't have known otherwise!
With the Easter break coming up, there should be plenty of content on here so keep a look out! Next game is on Monday.
Thank you for reading!