US Portsmouth 1 Andover Town 2.
The age old adage that the sign of a good team is when they are not at their best but still win was given another airing at US Portsmouth on Saturday as Andover Town dredged up a win in injury time thanks to a strike from Ike Robertson.
Tha lanky striker’s fourth goal in two games gave Town three priceless points and with Petersfield Town only drawing 0-0 with visiting Tadley Calleva they now stand 12 points clear at the top from Petersfield, who they play twice in the coming weeks.
Walking wounded Michael Dixon, Jamie Dockree and Brad Benson were all on the bench as boss Neil Benson’s normally impressively large squad began to show signs of wear and tear but they went at US from the start forcing half a dozen corners in the first 15 minutes with the home team getting bodies behind the ball. Toby McAuley volleyed a Robertson cross over the bar before a nasty looking injury to Cole Hinchcliffe halted the game for 25 minutes following an innocent clash of heads in the centre circle.
The less than fit Dockree was introduced with Lloyd Foot dropping back from midfield to the back line but after another McAuley chance kept out by home keeper Pete Houkes and a total of nine corners the half ended goalless.
Minutes after the restart Robertson should have put Town ahead but missed from close range but he made amends four minutes later with a goal of stunning quality as his fleet of foot skill and thunderous finish was matched by his exhuberent celebrations.
The servicemen were not ready to roll over and just before the hour they levelled when their best player Mark Connett finished a fine wing move.
The last quarter was spent in the home half although Town keeper Michael Weatherall had an awkward afternoon as US were dangerous on the break and on 70 minutes they should have gone in front as Connett was gifted the ball but went for glory and blasted over.
Claudio Herbert hit the side netting and substitute Dixon shot over before a frantic finish which tested the nerves of the Town fans at the ground.
Lewis Benson wriggled into the penalty area before being fouled but Foot’s spot-kick was kept out by Houkes seven minutes from the end.
Neil Benson went for broke and tinkered with the line up once again and the pressure paid off as Oliie Yates slung over a cross and Robertson’s close range header was enough to claim an injury time winner.
Neil Benson tempered his delight with the win with a touch of realism: “We had several injured and are beginning to get down to the bare bones” he said. “Jordon O’Donnell still has a niggling foot injury, Dockree, Brad Benson and Dixon were not fit but still were on the bench and Tom Riddell is still not ready.”
“We had a lapse of concentration which gave them their goal but we showed character and desire for what was a valuable win.”
Benson also praised US Portsmouth for their part in a ‘keenly contested game which was a pleasure to be involved with.’