Andover Town 1 Tadley Calleva 1.
A Cole Hinchcliffe header five minutes into injury time gave Andover Town the point which ensures their promotion to the Premier Division of the Wessex League this afternoon.
It also preserved the new club’s unbeaten run at the Portway but the final whistle was greeted as if relegation had been suffered as the side had all but handed the First Division title to rivals Petersfield Town, who won 2-1 at Fleet Spurs to take over at the top with one game left to play.
It was hard to take for the supporters who had watched their side draw for the third time in a row and make it 19 games unbeaten since losing at Cowes Sports.
What has been a long and sapping first season appears to be taking its toll as Town have struggled against Hythe and Dibden, Petersfield Town and Tadley Calleva in the past nine days, banking just three points and they now entertain Ringwood Town on Saturday where they must win and hope that Petersfield slip up at home to US Portsmouth.
For their second home game in three days manager Neil Benson went with Lewis Benson, Olllie Yates, Claudio Herbert, Tom Riddell and Danny Field on the bench and gave a debut to local boy Craig Blakeman, who had a spell with the defunct Andover FC three years ago.
Visitors Tadley Calleva were in no mood to roll over and with at least half a dozen former Whitchurch United players in their side, as well as former Lion Mario Nurse, the line up had a very familiar look to it.
Up front on his own, Brett Denham gave the home defence a torrid afternoon and inside ten minutes had seen a shot deflected wide, nodded over another chance then crashed a shot against the near post from a superb James Tennant cross.
Town were struggling to get their passing game going and chances were few, with Lloyd Foot and Brad Benson’s free-kicks testing keeper Luke Parker-Hodd before a stunning 50 yard Foot pass released Lewis Alderman but his cross was missed by all.
Tadley sensed this could be their day and James Milford had a shot go just over but once Toby McCauley and Cameron Hough had been crowded out from a good position Tadley struck with the last move of the half.
Cole Hinchcliffe was caught in possession by Denham who advanced and easily beat Jake Wellesley-Davies to give his side a deserved lead at the break.
The young keeper kept his side in the game with a fine save from Andrew Charsley before Benson rang the changes throwing on Yates and Lewis Benson on the hour. Sadly his plans went out of the window inside five minutes as Yates was forced to limp off, but not before the local boy had hit the post following a Michael Dixon run and gone close with a flicked header from Lewis Benson’s free-kick.
Riddell replaced him as Town enjoyed a brief spell of dominance but Tadley were always dangerous and James Tennant and Denham both went close with the home defence struggling.
Town kept going and Dixon somehow spooned a shot over from three yards out but deep into injury time with many looking towards the exit, another Benson free-kick found Hinchcliffe and he nodded home from close range.
It salvaged a draw, maintained the unbeaten run and officially clinched promotion, a holy trinity almost entirely voided by the news that Petersfield had won at Fleet Spurs to all but snatch the title.