Lyndhurst 3 Andover Lions 1.
Once again Andover Lions returned empty handed from Lyndhurst as they crashed to an opening game defeat against their bogey team.
It is now just two points from a possible 18 against their New Forest rivals but on this occasion Ray Cozze’s team will feel that they definitely deserved more after dominating for long periods but without turning their superiority into goals.
Cozze gave debuts to Dan Smith and Dane Adams and also gave starts to Dan Magee and Robbie Owen who had both had periods away from the club.
Lions nearly went ahead on five minutes when a Reece Rusher free-kick caused problems but Lyndhurst responded with the pacey Longland racing clear and shooting over from outside of the box.
After 13 minutes the home team had a great chance to take an early lead when Danny Lewis was adjudged to have fouled his opponent but Gary Gotts’ penalty was well saved by Magee diving to his right.
The save proved to be a big spur for Andover who were soon the dominant force with Lewis and Casson Spencer hitting fierce efforts just wide and Owen forcing a fine save from Wilkinson.
The best chance however fell to Rusher when a poor clearance by the keeper saw the youngster through on goal but a poor touch saw the ball run away and Wilkinson retrieved it to atone for his error.
The second half started in a totally different manner with Lyndhurst quickly out of the blocks with Longland going close almost immediately from the restart.
O’Connor should have done better when placing the ball wide inside the six yard box before Magee made an excellent block from Longland Lions slowly settled and on the hour looked like they had grabbed the lead only for the tables to be turned in dramatic style.
John Robb’s excellent header from a corner somehow stayed out via the post and a frantic scramble and within seconds Lyndhurst broke down their right and Longland left the pursuing Smith in his wake to score.
Five minutes later Lions were undone again when a free-kick was met firmly by the head of Rouse and they were two down.
Andover were reeling and within two minutes it was effectively game over as Longland grabbed his second with a similar finish to his opening effort.
To their credit The Lions did not give in and Cozze introduced Tom Gilbert and Josh Hind up front in an effort to get something from the game.
On 75 minutes Owen grabbed a well taken goal as he controlled the ball on his chest and clipped it past the excellent Wilkinson then Gilbert, Owen and Hind all had efforts that went wide and Wilkinson pulled off one top save from Owen as the game slipped away.
Manager Cozze had mixed thoughts on his team’s opening game of the season. “There were times in that game when we played very well, in particular the first half.
‘At half-time we were in a strong position to go on and win the game but the start to the second half was very poor and Lyndhurst punished us.
‘We had as many chances as they did but on the day they were sharper in front of goal and that has got them the points.
‘It’s important now that we get something from the game this Saturday coming and there are enough positives from this performance to make that possible.”
That game is away to league newcomers AFC Petersfield, 3pm kick-off at Love Lane before they open their home account at home to Four Marks on Tuesday night at 6pm.