With the fires having been well and truly stoked in the build up to Tuesday’s historic Andover League Open Cup semi-final at the Portway, few expected an anti-climax and in the end it was a stunning night.
The result, a 5-0 win for Andover Town against neighbours Andover Lions, was largely irrelevant as the town’s footballing public turned up in their droves to show support and see just what is currently on offer on the adjacent grounds.
The attendance of 312 was, according to reliable sources, the biggest at the Portway for more than a decade and they witnessed a match played in a cracking atmosphere with just the right amount to keep the fires burning to the end.
Lions’ secretary Chris Paris said after the game: “I was pleased with the way we competed untl we ran out of legs in the last 15 minutes and became ragged. Andover Town are a very good side and until the third goal we gave a good showing.”
Town boss Neil Benson was delighted with the crowd which turned up saying: “It was wonderful to see the ground so full and they all created a family atmosphere which will have pleased lots of people in the town as so many put effort in to create such a night.”
The attendance was bigger than several Conference games on Saturday, including that at Basingstoke and eclipsed many Southern and Northern Premier League crowds.
Two goals in the first 17 minutes, one scored by and one fashioned by Gunner Yates effectively ensured Town would be in the final but Lions were in no mood to roll over and with Casson Spencer alongside Andover FC legend Vinnie Rusher they looked lively early on.
As the second half went on Town went through the gears and once Lewis Benson, Tommy Wright and Claudio Herbert were introduced Lions struggled and as the goals went in and the bookings mounted visiting player-chairman Darren Paris was shown a straight red for comments made to Town defender Ope Aromona.
Chris Paris added:”It was only our fourth game in three months and it caught up with us and we had a couple who were not really fit but they really wanted to play and who can blame them?”
Opposite number Benson concluded: “Clearly we were not at our strongest but we showed respect for the occasion by fielding a team which fulfilled the competition guidelines.
“I am sure everyone enjoyed the game and Lions’ fans will always be very welcome at the Portway whenever their side do not have a game.
“Lions are enjoying a successful season and we wish them success for the rest of the campaign and beyond.”