10:54am Monday 20th February 2012
By Wendy Gee
STUART Ritchie was always convinced that a bigger squad would hold the key to his AFC Totton side maintaining their Evo-Stik Southern Premier promotion challenge.
Ritchie never doubted the quality of his side but, during a couple of rare dark days around the turn of the year, the Stags boss bemoaned his lack of options on the bench.
But the signings of Ross Bottomley, Ryan Moss and, latterly, Portsmouth loanee midfielder Lewis Stockford have significantly strengthened his hand as was evident in Saturday’s home game against Evesham United.
Almost a year to the day since christening their new Salisbury Road headquarters with a 5-1 slaying of Paulton Rovers in the Southern One South & West, the Stags celebrated the Testwood Stadium’s first anniversary with a crucial 3-1 win.
It keeps them two points behind Premier leaders Brackley with two games in hand with every chance of celebrating their second successive promotion come the spring. A Nathaniel Sherborne brace put Totton in the driving seat before Evesham threatened a late comeback with a Henry Eze goal four minutes from time.
It was at that point that Ritchie’s formidable bench came into its own with Jonathan Davies setting fellow sub Stefan Brown away to sweetly loft the ball over Evesham’s outstanding keeper Daniel Platt from the right edge of the area.
With Stockford, Charlie Knight and long-serving striker Mark Osman waiting patiently in the dugout, Ritchie, pictured, acknowledged: “We had five players on the bench today who would probably get into any other Southern League side – plus one or two who were not involved.
“You need to be able to make those sort of changes."
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