Ryan Griffiths scored a hattrick as Andover Town moved to the top of the Division One table for the first time this season with an emphatic 5-0 win over long-time rivals Downton in front of 200 people.

There was an explosive start to the proceedings with Andover immediately winning a corner on the left. The ball was swung in to the box and Griffiths, far from the tallest player in the area, rose the highest to head home with just thirty nine seconds on the clock. (1-0)

The game settled quickly with both sides looking to get forward at every opportunity. Brendan Holmes found Griffiths in space again but the shot was too high, another Andover corner was palmed to safety by keeper Matt Fredericks before the visitors came agonisingly close to levelling the score.

A free kick from the tight, hit low across the area, was missed by defenders and goalkeeper alike -all appeared to leave it to each other – and the ball was turned in to the net at the far post only for the offside flag to curtail the celebrations.

Town scored the second as Griffith’s speed took him clear of the defence and his chip over the advancing goalkeeper was of the highest quality. (2-0)

Downton’s Alan Kitchener was cautioned for a challenge that was far from clever before his side threatened again with a break by Sam Howe but the striker lacked support and was stopped by sheer weight of numbers. Both keepers were forced to leave their areas to halt attacks before Karl Sreinborne -Buss in the home goal stopped a close-range Howe header with his legs and then palmed another free kick past the post as the half came to a close.

The second half started and then stopped almost immediately as one of the Assistants suffered an injury but fortunately a replacement was on hand and the delay was minimal.

Town were quickly on the front foot and two hasty Downton clearances ended deep in the forest on the far side pf the ground before the visitors rather wasted a free kick in a dangerous position and found themselves three goals down, all inside the first five minutes.

A long ball forward caused confusion between goalkeeper and defenders with Fredericks forced to punch the ball clear on the edge of the area but there was no distance on the punch and David Jerrard headed the ball into the open goal from the edge of the ‘D’. (3-0)

The ball was quickly in the net again as substitute Jamie Turner finished off a fine move, but unfortunately from an offside position. Howe was denied by the home keeper before being replaced and Downton’s attacks all too often foundered on the edge of the area.

Griffiths saw another effort turned round the post by Fredericks before Downton caught the home defence napping with a quickly taken free kick but the final shot was too high,

The game appeared to be drifting to a close before suddenly waking up again as the final whistle approached. A long Town free kick from the right was cleverly steered into George Higgin’s path and the midfielder made no mistake from some fifteen yards. (4-0)

With the game now in stoppage time came goal number five. The speedy Griffiths closed down Fredericks and the intended clearance rebounded off the striker towards the unguarded net, the keeper pulled the striker back and conceded a penalty and collected a yellow card before, to add insult to injury, he parried the spot kick from Griffiths but was powerless to stop the follow up. (5-0)

An enjoyable game and a convincing win though Downton may feel it was not a “five nil” game, but they missed chances in the first half and were largely on the back foot after the break and Town will be justifiably confident when they travel to fellow promotion candidates Follands on Saturday.