WHILST statistically it might not be the case the Christmas Period is generally considered to be the halfway point of the season so it is good time to look at how Andover’s two premier football clubs, Andover Town and Andover New Street, have fared in their respective divisions of the Sydenhams Wessex Football League so far.

And the answer has to be very well indeed with Town clear at the top of the Premier Division and New Street on top of Division One.

The season kicked off in the sunshine of early August with a midweek match for Town, because of the FA Cup starting so early, and a prelude perhaps of what was to come.

Near neighbours Bemerton Heath were the visitors to the Portway and after a shaky opening fifteen minutes, in which they could easily have gone behind, Town ran out winners by six goals to one.

Ten days later one of the pre-season title favourites, Sholing provided Town with home opposition again and their marker was laid down for all to see with a three one victory over the Southampton side.

Their first away fixture and Team Solent at Test Park – the only side in the League to have Monday as their midweek night – and three more points as two goals from Liam Gilbert led to another three one success.

With the FA Cup intervening it was nearly a fortnight before League points were again at stake and trip across the Solent caused no problems with Reece Rusher scoring twice in a comfortable 4-0 victory at Newport.

Finally a nap hand was completed for the month as Amesbury were beaten 2-0 at the Portway to leave the Town with a 100 per cent record and 15 points as September approached. New Streets’ season did not get off to quite the same start but it was satisfactory to say the least.

The fixtures gave them four home matches for their first four games and wins over Alton, Fawley AFC and Verwood Town and a single goal defeat by Downton yielded nine points.

A very impressive three two win at US Portsmouth – never an easy place to get a result – courtesy of a stoppage time goal from Nic Turpin added three more points before defeat at Romsey in the final game of the month left them in second place in the table.

September started with a series of cup fixtures before a five one defeat of Bashley on home soil with two goals apiece for Glasspool and Gosney.

Another successful trip to the Island followed with Zach Glasspool scoring a hat trick in the five three win at Cowes Sports, before two more Mike Gosney goals gave them a hard fought win at Lymington.

The month ended, the Island trips apart, with the longest journey of the season – to Portland – where a very late goal from Glasspool ensured a one all draw.

New Street had just three league fixtures in the month resulting in two wins and one defeat commencing with a five two home win over Hythe and Dibden, the game a personal triumph for Zac Neve who scored four of the five goals.

The one away games was against the probable favourites for the title, Christchurch, at Hurn Bridge and resulted in a four one defeat. Street then bounced back with a six two victory at Charlton over East Cowes Vics – two goals each for Shane Lock and Gunner Yates - to leave them fifth in the table whilst Town were in second place in the Premier Division, nine points behind Blackfield with three games in hand.

Into October and a perfect month for Andover Town with six league matches played and six league matches won.

First up was a visit from the always dangerous AFC Portchester with a late winner from George Hallahan ensuring a three two victory before a midweek tip to Shaftesbury, where the newly promoted home side provided stiff opposition before going down by the odd goal in three.

The visit of fellow title chasers Blackfield and Langley to the Portway attracted an attendance of 265 and they witnessed the best game of the season to date – and it could still be the best game come April – with the home side coming out on top by five goals to three and 10 days later they hit the heights again with a 6-1 defeat of Hamble Club.

Bournemouth were beaten two one at the Portway before a run of away games commenced with a midweek trip to Fareham where they conceded a goal inside three minutes and then scored four to make it eighteen points out of eighteen for the month.

New Street’s month got off to a bad start with a single goal defeat at New Milton and a four nil home loss to Ringwood Town. The latter’s free scoring striker, River Smith, scored all four goals and then departed for Hamble Club.

A quirk in the fixtures saw a quick return meeting with New Milton and a two goal victory before the month finished with a highly creditable two one win at AFC Stoneham leaving them still in fifth place in the table.

November and the advent of winter and four more wins for Andover Town as they continued to top the table but also lost their unbeaten record. A 4-1 win at Baffins was followed by a Wednesday night trip to Alresford and a 3-0 defeat.

A potential banana skin was avoided at bottom Club Petersfield with victory by the odd goal in three before normal service was resumed with a two nil win at Brockenhurst.

The month finished back at the Portway and a double over Cowes as the Islanders went down by the odd goal in three.

If October had been a perfect month for the Town then November enjoyed similar status with New Street.

A 7-3 victory at bottom club Follands included a hat trick for Zach Neve – was followed by a four two home victory over Totton and Eling before two local derbies completed the month.

Firstly two Gunner Yates goals saw victory over Laverstock and Ford before a Friday evening trip to Whitchurch on a somewhat chilly evening.

The switch from Saturday to Friday attracted an attendance of 123 and New Street rewarded their fans amongst that number with a 3-2 success to sit proudly on top of the table at the month end.

December saw a marked decrease in the number of fixtures caused by the scheduling and the weather with the two cubs only collectively playing five games before Christmas.

Andover Town suffered their second defeat of the league programme when a late goal gave Hamworthy the points at the Portway but bounced back with a 3-1 win at Bemerton seven days later, the third time they have defeated their Wiltshire neighbours this season.

A blank Saturday when the Lymington fixture was postponed because of a frozen Portway pitch before Shaftesbury were the visitors two days before Christmas.

Town on the day were missing a number of players but ground out a two goal win over stubborn and determined visitors. New Street were without a fixture on the second and Foxcotte Park was frozen on the 9th, causing the postponement of Tadley’s visit, so it was halfway through the month before they resumed League activities with a trip to Alton that ended in a narrow two one defeat.

Romsey, also very much in the promotion race, were the pre-Christmas visitors and dominated the first half and opened the scoring before a second half turnaround saw Street come out on top by the odd goal in five.

The last game of 2017 saw Andover beat Alresford 5-2 to remain six points clear at the top and Andover New Street returned to the top after a 4-1 win over Downton.

The above has concentrated on the league but various cup competitions also come in to play as the season progressed.

Andover Town did not really enjoy the luck of the draw in the major competitions, the FA Cup sending them to fellow Wessex League side Lymington in the extra Preliminary Round.

A 2-0 victory there was rewarded with a home tie with Southern League Wimborne and a game of high quality and excitement ended three apiece before Town upset the odds with a two one victory at Wimborne on the following Tuesday.

This earned them another home, and on paper winnable, tie against Bristol based Cadbury Heath but after scoring first Andover conceded twice and somewhat disappointingly exited the competition.

New Street did not enter the FA Cup but both sides entered the FA Vase, both drew fellow Wessex opposition, and both lost.

Andover Town travelled to Horndean and despite a Zach Glasspool hat-trick went down 4-3 with the winner a penalty deep in to extra time while New Street journeyed to Tadley and in a game that could have gone either way on the day the hosts progressed by the odd goal in five. Entry to the Hampshire Senior Cup is mandatory and on a bad night in north-east Hampshire Andover were defeated 5-1 by Alresford.

New Street were also drawn away, to Premier Division Hamble Club, and found them too strong finishing on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline. In the Wessex League Cup Andover were drawn away again, this time to Petersfield, and after the scores were level at ninety minutes their long held frailty as regards penalty deciders surfaced with a seven six defeat.

New Street fared better however scoring twice in the last three minutes to defeat Follands and then the only goal of the game against Premier Division Lymington with the competition to continue in January.

The Russell Cotes Cup bought two wins for Andover Town, against Fleetlands and Bemerton, but New Street went out to Bush Hill, who proved the most unpleasant of visitors on the night. Andover Town are still in the Salisbury Hospitals Cup New Street went out at the hands of Amesbury- and both clubs have made progress in the Andover Open Cup so more games to follow in the New Year.