AFC TOTTON will be in the hands of a second caretaker manager for the next two matches.
Andy Darnton, who has steered the ship since Steve Hollick departed three weeks ago, misses Saturday’s home game against Slimbridge and Tuesday’s trip to Didcot Town due to a pre-arranged half-term break which he had told the club about long before taking temporary charge.
A midweek win for fellow strugglers Bridgwater sent Totton tumbling to the bottom of the Southern One South & West on goal difference and Darnton admitted: “It’s unfortunate it (his two-game absence) has come around now and, with the current situation, is far from ideal.
“Wayne will be deputising for the two games I miss and, hopefully by the time I return, the interview process (for a new manager) will have been started and we will all be in a far more positive position.”
The good news is that Darnton has secured the signing of bright, young midfielder Charlie Gunson.
A former England under-18 schoolboy international, Gunson began the season at Gosport Borough and recently returned to play for his old club Andover Town.
“We’ve been tracking Charlie for some time now and I’m pleased to welcome him on board,” said Darnton.
“He’s the right age at 19, he’s got lots of energy and will give us much-needed quality. I think he’ll be the right fit for us.”
Gunson goes straight into the squad to face 12th-placed Slimbridge, but the Stags have injury concerns over Jack Vallis (calf), Curtis Angell (ribs), Nathaniel Sherborne (knee), Dan Munday (groin) and Liam Hibberd (groin).
“I expect only Hibbo and Dan Munday to be fit, so this will certainly test our small squad,” said Darnton.
“But if we apply ourselves like we did against Tiverton last week, we have a chance of getting some points on the board and start climbing the table.”
Encouragingly Dylan Knight got through 60 minutes in the Russell Cotes Cup at Hamble Club on Tuesday having been out long-term with a dislocated shoulder. Fellow frontman Ashley Jarvis also had a run-out, coming back from a fortnight’s lay-off with hamstring trouble.
Totton lost 4-1 at Hamble with Darnton admitting: “They had more hunger and desire than us on the night and this is something the players seriously need to look at.”
He was, however, encouraged to have George Ockwell making his full debut at full-back and another 16-year-old, Callum Hellyer, coming off the bench to score a well-taken goal.
Another young sub, Alex Haynes, showed the potential that has seen him selected for England Colleges trials.