Andover New Street 0 Andover Town 2.
Despite the predictable defeat on Saturday, New Street boss Matt Styles was the more content of the two managers as his patched up side gave Town something to think about for the third time this season, at Foxcotte Park.
New Street currently have 42 players available according to the Wessex League website, although with retirements and injuries that number can be reduced, but despite that Styles was forced to go with just 13 players in all, including second choice keeper , 17 year old Tom Crozier alongside 16-year old Charlie Waite up front. To rub salt in the would it was two ex-New Street players in Oliver Yates and Lewis Alderman whose goals were enough to keep Town 12 points ahead of Petersfield Town in the race for the Division One title.
Another good crowd for an Andover derby had barely settled when the home defence gifted the ball to Oli Yates and he had little trouble in beating Dave Tasker to put his side in front with less than two minutes on the clock. With many dreading another double figure humiliation, with Town needing to improve their goal tally as the league goes down to the wire, Ike Robertson brought the first of many superb saves out of home keeper Dave Tasker who then somehow twice kept out the gangling striker from a Yates corner.
As the chances came and went Town seemed to go into their shell and with the poor pitch not helping their natural passing game and Lewis Benson for once not bossing the midfield, they did not emerge with much in the way of credit whereas Styles’ troops, including the unconventional but strangely effective Prince Xhamela at the back alongside the always committed Mark Keogh, ran all game and were determined not to suffer another good hiding.
Brad Benson and brother Lewis both set up the lethargic Ike Robertson who missed twice then Tasker clawed away another Robertson effort which more or less guaranteed the Londoner would make way for Michael Dixon sooner rather than later.
New Street were forced to rely on breakways and Waite’s mazy run from halfway ended with him just crowded out while at the other end Ryan Inskip nodded wide before the break.
Soon after the restart Robertson made way for Dixon who was wide after being set up by Claudio Herbert and his imposing bulk soon caused panic as Xhamela handled in the area on the hour.
Dixon’s spot kick and rebound were somehow kept out by Tasker who just had a hand on the ball a fraction of a second before it was knocked home and the goal was disallowed and a free-kick awarded. Seconds later Dixon was again through one on one but again the alert Tasker was equal to the league’s leading goalscorer. With Town marginally improving in the second half goals were expected by in the end only one more came when Alex Dockree fed Alderman and his low shot just crept in at the far post.
With the final plays Yates hit the bar and Dixon headed over but the points were safe.
Styles told the Advertiser: “Again In had five players pull out in the morning and had to play Prince at centre half for the first time and he did very well. ‘Also young Tom Crozier played out of goal for the second time in his life but despite all that the dressing room was not happy as they believed they could have got more.”
Town boss Neil Benson said: “This was a rare game which we have been involved in which was totally uninspiring. In truth a number of our squad were carrying knocks and we found it difficult on a near impossible pitch but the result was paramount and never in doubt.
‘At this stage a clean sheet with a reshuffled defence and the three points were the positives.””We have six league games left whereas our rivals are playing catch up and we will see how their squads cope with the pressure.”