May 4 2012 By Greg Burns at Testwood Stadium
EVO-STIK PREMIER DIVISON PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINAL AFC Totton 3-2 Chesham United
TWO defensive errors and a refereeing blunder ended Chesham United's promotion dream at AFC Totton.
The Generals headed to Hampshire on Thursday night hoping to take a giant step towards the Blue Square South but they left the pitch ruing what might have been after defeat that was tough to take.
Andy Leese's side dominated the Stags throughout the game but uncharacteristic mistakes from centre back pair Rob Bartley and Mark Lambert proved costly.
They were either side of a shocking error by the officials that prevented Chesham substituting injured Bruce Wilson and allowing Totton to break and score their second.
Chesham started well and should have taken the lead inside three minutes when a teasing Chris Watters cross was met by in-form striker Simon Thomas.
But, with the goal gaping, the front-man saw his header agonisingly come back off the crossbar and clear before Generals midfielder James Potton forced home stopper James Bittner into a smart low save.
The visitors had a good shout for a penalty to cap a frantic opening spell when Leon Archer looked to be tripped by Bittner in the box but the referee waved away their appeals.
But, not for the first time in the match, Chesham shot themselves in the foot.
And Bartley – who was sent-off in the league game at Testwood Stadium – was the guilty party when he missed his kick to allow Jonathan Davies to bear down on goal and steer his shot past Generals goalkeeper Shane Gore on 13 minutes.
If that was hard to take then the way Leese's side conceded their second will leave a bad taste in the mouth for a while to come yet.
Wilson, injured in a tackle, was ready to be substituted with full-back John Kyriacou stripped and ready to take his place before his side took a corner.
But the fourth official refused to allow Chesham to make the change with Totton clearing the corner and exploiting the gap left by hobbling Wilson to allow Michael Charles to tap in for 2-0 a minute before the break.
Chesham were angry. But their first-half dominance meant the game was far from over.
Even more so eight minutes after the restart when Thomas pulled the ball back for Watters who curled in a superb effort into the top corner to get them back in the game.
They were level two minutes later when Thomas converted a goalmouth scramble to put Chesham in the driving seat.
Totton were on the ropes and the Generals were ready to deliver the knockout blow.
But instead they gifted the home side the lead yet again. This time it was a Lambert error that hurt them.
The defender allowed a high ball to bounce to give Stags striker Ryan Moss the chance to put pressure on his covering header back to Gore.
It was a header that lacked pace and Moss was able to pounce and prod past a helpless Gore on the hour mark.
The goal gave Totton something to hold on to. And hold on they did.
That was despite Chesham camping in their half for the final stages and seeing a Thomas effort cleared off the line and a Lambert volley blocked on its way towards the top corner.
It was a painful end to the season for Chesham who had to watch as Totton celebrated wildy at booking a final spot at Oxford on Monday.
GENERALS: Gore, Gudgeon, Lambert, Bartley, Wilson (Kyriacou 45), Potton, Fotheringham, Watters, Wales (Talbot 73), Thomas, Archer (Wadkins 75).
Subs (not used): Rolfe, Moran.
Booked: Gudgeon (84 mins).