REPORTER: GRAHAM COUSINS
ANDOVER TOWN 2 – ANDOVER NEW STREET 1
The annual pre-season friendly between two clubs – barely a mile apart geographically – produced an encounter worthy of a League meeting at the Portway with nothing in the way of commitment lacking from either side.
The match was marred however by an injury to Andover’s Ethan O’Kelly in the opening minutes which necessitated the calling of an ambulance and the game being held up for the best part of an hour.
It is understood that the injury is a dislocated shoulder and all concerned wish the player a full and speedy recovery. Thanks and appreciation also to the staff of both sides for their attention and concern.
On the day, Town were without their lynchpin, Brendon Holmes, and also striker Josh Bertie whilst there were no Thorns in New Street’s side – both Connor and Gary of that ilk were absent as was full back Mario Nurse who graced the Portway in the Old Andover shirt on numerous occasions.
The game got off to a rapid start with the visitors taking the lead inside the opening two minutes. A corner from the left was headed back across goal by Matt Scott at the far post and in the ensuing scramble Ollie Yates prodded the ball home.
Then came the injury and delay meaning the game re-started when normally half time would have been drawing to a close. The first action saw Street goalkeeper Sean O’Brien having to leave his area to head clear from Josh Hewson and the latter’s pace was a problem for the defence all afternoon, but when he broke down the right and crossed low in to the area there was not a blue shirt in sight.
David Tasker came well out of his area without getting the ball and was rescued by a perhaps harsh handball call by the referee before play switched to the other end with Hewson failing to make contact with a Tom Pattison cross at the far post. A lung bursting run by Adam Pattison took him virtually the length of the field before he was stopped and play settled in to midfield for a spell. Andover were perhaps guilty of giving the ball away too often with loose passes but another Pattison run produced a cross that caused a lengthy scramble in the penalty area.
Shane Lock won and took a corner from which defender Matt Scott’s acrobatic overhead kick landed on top of the net – an effort worthy of any goalscoring forward.
The challenges were committed, though the game could have done without the occasional play acting, and some ten minutes before the much delayed interval the scores were level. Michael Donovan’s diagonal cross from the left evaded both central defenders and Hewson coolly slotted the ball past O’Brien.
Almost before that goal had registered it was two as Hewson burst in to the area and was bought down by the goalkeeper for the most obvious of penalties. The keeper collected a yellow card, the area was crowded, and Zac Hine fired the spot kick in to the roof of the net and it was honours to Andover at the much-delayed break.
As with all friendlies the second half was difficult from the reporting sense with Substitutes galore including players returning to the pitch who had been substituted. The commitment however did not slacken. Hewson ended another run by hitting the advancing goalkeeper’s legs and was also guilty of halting a couple of attacks by being offside. Look along the line? Donovan found his way in to the book for a cynical body check and two or three others followed as the referee, who had done his best to let the game flow, finally lost patience.
Pearce Williams (hopefully that is the right name) who had taken over in the home goal, saved well from Brett Denham and turned a dangerous Lock cross over the bar. Hewson was one of those substituted, which reduced the home side’s attacking threat, and New Street finished the stronger. Yates was inches wide and Alex Dockree saw a twenty yard effort tipped over the bar but they could not find the equaliser and the spoils belonged to Andover.
The injury apart, it was an enjoyable game and if Andover can retain Hewson and show the same commitment they should be heading for a better season, Street have lost both Luke Hooper and Rafa Ramos from last season, which is a lot of goals to find, and with Lock and Yates preferring the touchlines Denham too often lacked support in the middle.
The League meeting in September between the two should be another enjoyable evening.