Lee Lashenko’s Bristol Manor Farm continued their strong start to the season with a hard-fought draw against league leaders AFC Totton courtesy of two free-kicks from top scorer Owen Howe, writes Jack Davies.
Manor Farm got off to the perfect start inside five minutes. Early pressure eventually led to Mike Bryant being tripped just outside the area, and the in-form striker Howe smashed home his free-kick via a deflection off a Stags defender.
Prior to Saturday’s fixture, Totton had a perfect record since the season began and they didn’t let the early setback disrupt them. Smart play from Sam Griffin sent Hisham Kisamu though but the strikers shot was brilliantly blocked by home defender Sam Boulton.
Griffin was it again shortly after, twisting inside and out before his own effort from range was well saved by Ben John.
Deservedly, the Stags drew level midway through the first-half. Fred Read found Kisamue with a defence splitting pass, and despite taking an age to shoot, the forwards’ deflected effort found the back of the net.
Lashenko’s side were struggling to get a foot hold, but always posed a threat on the counter. Kyle Tooze carried fully 60 yards before his switch saw the ball eventually land to Lloyd Mills, his shot was safely held by Lewis Noice.
Totton would take the lead after 35 minutes. Ethan Taylor stealing possession high up the park, and his left footed effort from distance perfectly found the far top corner.
Two chances came Manor Farm’s way just before the interval. First, a Howe free-kick cleared the Portway, then secondly Tooze’s goal bound effort was blocked.
Despite being a goal down, Manor Farm started the second-half the better of the two sides. Jayden Nielsen’s spin and pass found substitute Lewis Leigh-Gilchrist, but the striker could only stand and watch is strike sail over the bar.
Totton forward Taylor then matched that with a similar turn just outside the area but his shot was once again saved by John.
The away side then had a 10 minute spell in which they should have put the game to bed. First John was caught in no man’s land after his tackle on Taylor, but Hoey could only lift over the empty net. Next was Griffin again who got in down the left once more but only found John once more.
Farm were under the cosh but went inches from levelling from nowhere, Howe’s neat flick found Nielsom who’s improvised effort was tipped just over the bar by the scrambling Noice.
As the game was drawing to a close, the Stags came close to adding a third. Kasimo fired an excellent low cross but Taylor completely miskicked with the goal gaping.
Taylor made a much firmer connection minutes later, collecting from some penalty box pinball and his shot cannoned off the underside of the bar and Josh Ford hacked clear off the line.
The games turning point came with 10 minutes left. Callum Baughton hauled Ben Bament down as he ran clear, and the Stags defender was rightly given his marching orders.
His discretion was punished even further from the resulting free kick. Howe lashed the ball into the left corner to get his second of the day – and his eighth of an incredibly productive start to the season.
Totton were then perhaps lucky to only have one player sent off when Stephene Zubar’s elbow caught Nielsen. However, the ex-football league defender was only handed a yellow.
In the dying embers, Manor Farm thought they’d stolen all three points from the league leaders. More brilliance from Ben Bament as he found Jamie Short, but his low effort was well saved by the Stags keeper.
(Star Man, Ben John)
Attention turns to Melksham Town F.C. who travel to The Creek on Saturday 11th September for a 3pm kick-off. You can watch Manager Lee Lashenko’s reaction from Saturday’s draw against AFC Totton on our official YouTube channel HERE.