Roger Butcher with his mid-April review of Tooting & Mitcham United FC – a league win is tantalisingly in reach!
The season has just one game remaining – and Tooting will be playing Dorking Wanderers in a match that will decide the fate of the Ryman South Division Championship on Saturday 22nd April.
Tooting have been top of the table since the fantastic win at Hythe in January, and at one stage held a 9 point lead. However, Dorking Wanderers have been tenacious in their chase and have reduced the gap to just 3 points. It’s probably fair to say that our form has dropped off slightly in the last few weeks, and we are stumbling towards the finish line rather than marching towards it, but nevertheless we have been managing to pick up the right results when we’ve needed to. The champagne football that we saw a couple of months ago seems to have gone – perhaps the pressure of getting close to the line, or maybe other teams are upping their game in the hope of beating the table toppers.
Either way, we started the month with a tough game against South Park. A large crowd of over 600, tempted by the free admission offer, saw a cagey affair which never really burst into life. But in the 2nd half, Tooting’s determination reaped the reward when Mike Dixon slotted home a Tenny Adebowale cross for his 22nd goal of the season. Substitute Jack Mazzone wrapped up the points with a 2nd goal late in the game.
We had a London Senior Cup quarter final against Dulwich Hamlet, but with important league games on the horizon, manager Frank Wilson opted to make 8 changes to the starting line up, and despite a valiant 2nd half effort, we exited the cup following a 3-1 defeat.
This led to a home game against Three Bridges. It should have been a comfortable afternoon for Tooting as Three Bridges were in the relegation places and looked certain for the drop, but that’s not how it turned out. It was a tension-filled performance where we struggled to play much attractive football, but once again we found a way to win, and once again it was marksman Mike Dixon who provided the winner with just 6 minutes remaining. The news that Dorking had dropped points meant that there was an air of optimism around the ground at the final whistle.
Then on Saturday, we travelled to Ramsgate and got a 1st half lead courtesy of a Chace O’Neill goal. At half time, with us leading and Dorking drawing, it looked like we were going to win the league that day. But a 2nd half equaliser from Ramsgate combined with a late penalty winner for Dorking meant that the lead was cut back to just 3 points again with only 2 games to go.
On Easter Monday, Dorking had an earlier kick off away to Guernsey and won 4-2. This meant that we needed a win to go into the final game of the season in pole position. And we were up against near neighbours, Carshalton Athletic, in front of nearly 700 spectators. Carshalton were battling hard for points as they were chasing a playoff spot and yet another cagey game ensued. It was goalless at half time, and as the game moved into the latter stages it seemed that it would remain that way. But with 6 minutes to go, manager Frank Wilson brought on long serving Jordan Wilson as a substitute. This move provided instant dividends as he headed in a Chace O’Neill free kick with his first touch of the ball. Despite some nervy moments, this proved to be the winner and sets up Saturday’s finale.
The scenario is this: we are 3 points clear, so that a win or a draw will guarantee us the title. We also have a superior goal difference and if Dorking win, then this tie breaker will come into play. In fact, Dorking need to win by 5 goals or more to wrest the title from our grasp. Unlikely, I know, but by no means impossible. So we need to approach that game like any other and try to get back to our fast passing game.
If anyone is planning on attending the game, Dorking Wanderers play here which is about a three quarters of a mile walk away from Dorking railway station. All support will be most appreciated by the players and it will hopefully be a memorable occasion. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Another date for the diary is the annual charity match between the Players and Supporters to raise money for the Bloodwise charity. Last season, the Players won following a penalty shoot-out after the game had finished 8-8. So the Supporters will definitely be eyeing revenge this season! Kick off time has yet to be finalised but the details should appear here in due course.
Upcoming Home Fixture
Tooting Players v Tooting Supporters – Sunday 7th May – Kick Off tbc