ANDOVER Town had a hard fought battle with local rivals Amesbury before going down 4-2 to the visitors.

If success were judged by improvement and lessons learnt then Andover would have been the victor.

As usual Andover had shining moments but the Amesbury forwards were able find gaps in defence too often leaving Kieran McHardy being challenged from every direction uncomfortably frequently.

Today’s game saw the return of Nathan Lunness following injury earlier in the season and a change in position for Sam Mills playing up front alongside Shaquille Gwengwe and Jordan Ragguette.

Mills work rate was extremely high as he not only filled the number 10 position well he also provided support for defence for set pieces.

It’s no surprise he was replaced before the end of the game.

The first attempt on goal was from Amesbury. It wasn’t particularly good but McHardy was taking no chances and watched closely as the ball went wide of the post.

Only minutes later Lunness cleared off the line after McHardy found himself out of position having already partly cleared during the same move.

Play had barely restarted when Lunness and McHardy found themselves in the same situation again, this time Tom Plant was able to put the ball just out of the reach of the both of them.

Once again it wasn’t the best of starts but the next couple of minutes put that right.

Only 60 seconds after the first goal Ragguette was fouled in the box and Andover had a penalty. Gwengwe stood up for the kick and scored with confidence.

These two early goals started the crown buzzing.

There was local rivalry at stake and the scene had been set.

A shot from Ragguette curled beautifully towards goal, but unfortunately in full sight of Dave Cardus who stood and waited for it to arrive.

Dan Finnigan proved to be just a couple of seasons too experienced for the Andover defence.

On a number of occasions he was able to find space from nowhere and in the sixteenth minute one of these times resulted in a goal which McHardy dived for, but was never going to stop.

For Andover, the partnership of Gwengwe and Ragguette promised to deliver.

On occasion they were able to force mistakes from the away side’s defence, a skill clearly developing as the season progresses, but not yet to a guaranteed successful conclusion.

In contrast Finnigan was also doing the same at the other end of the pitch with more menace, demanding Lunness and McHardy to play at their best.

McHardy found himself giving away a penalty when he brought down Robbie Owen. Finnigan sent McHardy in the wrong direction and buried the ball in the left corner.

The game continued to have its heated moments. Ragguette was subjected to a hard tackle and required assistance off the pitch before, to the delight of the crowd, he returned apparently unscathed.

Shortly afterwards Finnigan once again engineered his way to a shot opportunity and McHardy saved, at full stretch, with his leg.

With only a minute of the first half to go Cole Oates launch a ball at goal which Mills was able to redirect and defeat Cardus.

Although Mills will go on the score sheet both shots warranted recording and reward.

There were calls from Amesbury that Mills had been offside but the outbreak only achieved to fire up the demeanour of the players rather than disallowing the goal.

The second half started with the home fans quietly hoping for the long awaited first points of the season.

Andover are no strangers to high scoring in latter part of the game and the run of play looked like providing an exciting 45 minutes.

Oates spent a lot of the game trying to outrun the Amesbury defence. On most occasions his speed didn’t let him down but the number of defenders he needed to beat did.

This was emphasised in the 51st minute when his run was second to none, but the professional marking from two defenders prevented him from being able to make room for a shot.

There was no doubt that the Amesbury forwards were finding too much space. An offside call against Andover resulted in a free kick to the away side.

The kick was well placed to the unmarked Finnigan which left McHardy with very little chance of stopping the goal.

The closing minutes of the game saw Mills taking a reasonable free kick which swept down goal-wards, but not quite quick enough to dip below the crossbar.

This was a physical game played with passion from both sides.

It provided some valuable lessons for Andover but also allowed some individuals to demonstrate talents and strengths not seen before.

Brendan Holmes played with grit and determination, and when the going got tough, his leadership skills as captain were tested successfully.

Next for Andover is an away game at Totton and Eling on Saturday.