Roger Butcher is back with his monthly review of Tooting & Mitcham United FC – and February was a corker!
Its been a tremendous month for Tooting with some excellent performances and some great results. There were none better than the game against fellow promotion hopefuls, Greenwich Borough. It was 1st v 3rd in the table, and besides this, there was the added spice of former hero, Billy Dunn lining up for the opposition following his recent poaching! Just a few weeks earlier, Greenwich had emerged victorious in the reverse fixture, courtesy of a stoppage tie winner following a keenly contested game.
The visitors started strongly and we were reduced to 10 men when Quincy Rowe was sent off for a foul when he was the last defender. Despite the numerical disadvantage, Tooting really upped the work rate and ended the 1st half still at 0-0. Halfway through the 2nd half, Danny Bassett was fouled and had to be carried off with a suspected broken leg. Having already used all three substitutes, Tooting had to see out the remaining 20 minutes with just 9 men. The Tooting players re-doubled their efforts and prepared for an onslaught.
But the main action occurred at the other end of the pitch. From a seemingly safe position, the Greenwich defenders and goalkeeper contrived to lose control of the ball, leaving Mike Dixon, the lone striker, to nip in, round the keeper, and score in front of the disbelieving supporters.
There were still 15 minutes left, so the job was far from done, but what we witnessed was one of the best rearguard actions ever seen at Tooting. We held out for a famous 1-0 victory, and retained top spot in the table. Its hard to overestimate the effort and skill that the Tooting players put in, and there were supporters who have been watching Tooting for many decades who said that it was one of the best games they’d ever seen.
The next game saw us travel to Herne Bay. We looked strangely out of sorts, and despite taking the lead, were hanging on 1-1 at half time. Another stoic defensive performance looked to be earning us a point, but the game changed when that man again, Mike Dixon, was introduced from the substitute bench. He began to terrorise the Herne Bay defence and scored two wonderful solo breakaway goals to lead us to an extraordinary 4-1 win.
These two awesome performances from Mike Dixon are made even more remarkable as he was not fully fit having sustained and ankle injury in an earlier game.
The next game of the Mike Dixon show was at home to Sittingbourne, where the visitors showed a lot of resolve but were undone again by the pace and power of Dixon who battled through two defenders to open the scoring. We went on to win 2-0. Tooting were buoyed in this game by the surprise return of top scorer, Billy Dunn, after his short lived move to Greenwich. There was also a new signing – the very experienced Kevin MacLaren, signed from Hendon.
The next game was another tough one – away to Lewes, who themselves are still very much in the play off picture. Always a favourite away game for Tooting fans, thanks to a picturesque ground, a pleasant town, and Harvey’s Brewery! And to round the day off beautifully, we came away with a stunning 5-1 win. Once again, Mike Dixon was proving a handful for the opposition defenders, and although not getting on the scoresheet himself, was fouled twice in the penalty area, with both spot kicks being converted.
Tooting then followed this up with a record equalling 9th consecutive victory after a 4-1 win away to Cray Wanderers. This fine win saw us notch our 100th league goal of the season when Chace O’Neill drove home our 3rd. This is the first time that we have achieved that milestone in this league, and left us just two goals short of the overall record of 103 set in 1946 when we were in the now defunct Athenian League.
We rounded off the month by completing the record 10th straight win and taking our goals tally to a new record of 104 with a 3-0 victory over bottom club Godalming Town. But this game was far from straightforward as we had to wait until the 78th minute for Peter Wedgeworth to become the unlikely hero when he smashed in a free kick from distance. Jack Mazzone completed the scoring with a brace in the last couple of minutes.
It might seem that Mike Dixon is a one man team at the moment, but in fact the whole team, including the substitutes and the management are really putting in a huge effort. With just 2 months left of the season, we are in a great position, and I’m sure that nobody is ready to let it slip.
Tooting v Chipstead – Sat 4th March, ko 3pm
Tooting v Walton Casuals – Sat 18th March, ko 7:45pm
Tooting v South Park – Sat 1st April, ko 3pm