Andover Town 1 - 2 Cadbury Heath
Saturday 2nd September 2017
Goals from Sacha Tong and Christian Lee either side of half-time gave travelling Cadbury Heath a superb FA Cup victory over Wessex League Premier Division Andover Town on Saturday afternoon writes Kerry Miller.
It was richly deserved by Rob Mallett’s side who came back from an early goal deficit to dominate for significant parts of the tie before a heroic last defensive stand brought a place in Monday’s draw and a cheque for £3,000. With Bridport beating Southern League Barnstaple Town at the same time, despite all the nationals having the score the opposite way round, the league have two in the hat with everyone hoping they are not drawn together.
Andover Town were undefeated in 15 games spread over from last season and including pre season, according to their twitter account, and are not short in experience on the pitch, despite having only been in existence for four years. In the squad were Liam Gilbert, Mike Gosney and Zack Glasspool, who have all played at a higher level as well as Reece Rusher, the son of Vinnie Rusher, who was a scoring legend at the Portway for the now defunct Andover FC.
Cadbury Heath were without Matt Huxley, who was on the bench but their line up looked strong enough to cause some problems, on Andover’s immaculate pitch which resembled a snooker table from a distance and on what was a warm and sunny day in North Hampshire.
The match had attracted an impressive crowd of 308, which was the home team’s highest FA Cup attendance so far and one of their biggest in all competitions and they were soon purring as in their first attack, Rusher slung an inch-perfect left foot cross to the far post but Glasspool’s header was saved by Dan Worton in the Heathens’ goal. A Gosney corner then found Luke Dempsey on the far post who was wide with his header but on ten minutes Andover took the lead. Rusher and Glasspool led a raiding party which brought another corner which Shane Lock took and full back Conor Cocklin was lurking with intent on the far post to nod in the opener unmarked.
Cadbury Heath almost hit back immediately when the home defence got into a tangle and Simon McElroy scampered away only to be denied at the death. Town almost doubled their lead on 20 minutes when Gosney struck a free-kick against the far post with everybody beaten but the Bristol side roared back and for a while George Boon took centre stage. He had a shot blocked by giant centre back Adam Pearson then blasted a free-kick over from a good position on the half hour, but moments later, from another free-kick to the far post Tong rose to power a header past Lloyd Thomas took level, six minutes before the break.
The play had become much more open and a frantic last few minutes saw Pearson find the side-netting with another header, and Lock end a fine more with a shot from 15 yards which brought shouts for a penalty, ignored by referee Dan Lamport. Heath were growing in confidence with every passage of play and Town were quietly glad to get in to the break on level terms.
The home side had the first chance when Gilbert fed Rusher whose cross shot was just missed by the careering Glasspool, which was his last action as he was replaced by Alex Dockree, who is Andover’s current record appearance holder, but it did not work in their favour as Cadbury Heath took the lead in style. A fine move involving Boon ended with Lee free in the area and his finish was clinical from close range to stun the home side and send the visiting fans into orbit.
Andover were stunned and a quick raid ended with Lock almost in but Worton saved then Gosney should have done better but Worton saved again and the missed chances began to mount up.
Heath sensed they could wrap the game up and Lee and Tong brought saves from Thomas in the same attack before Lee curled one wide and Boon shot over. Andover were also not done and when Lock escaped to bare down on goal it looked for all the world like an equaliser until Andy Campbell somehow got his body in the way.
McElroy then crossed an awkward ball which Thomas fumbled but Tong could not convert and Town began to lose their composure and frustration was showing as Dempsey’s header was saved and Gosney skied a shot from 12 yards with the goal gaping. Heath thought they had clinched the deal soon after when Lee’s shot was pushed away by Thomas, only as far as Tong who netted but he was offside and the outcome was still in the balance.
Town poured all over the visitors with Rusher and Cocklin connecting but for a corner which again was cleared then substitute Dockree had the best chance of all when unmarked eight yards out but somehow Worton kept it out and his side were home and dry and proudly in the draw for the next round.
Andover Town’s colourful Portway Stadium has had a chequered history, having only been constructed in 1989, following the loss of the old club’s rustic town centre Walled Meadow ground.
Andover FC struggled for the last few years of their existence and that struggle was borne out by the ground becoming tired and dog-eared, the pitch often being attacked by rabbits and eventually and sadly in 2011 the club conceded defeat and folded, leaving the council owned venue to quickly fall into disrepair with bushes appearing in the pitch and external damage of parts of the stands and fencing. Following two years of neglect local colleges took over the ground and formed a new club, completely independent of the old one, and now the Portway’s fading red has been replaced by a sparkling new blue and white and what was a jungle is now a ground with a pitch tended by groundsman Chris White, who finished third in the Step 5 / 6 category of the football pyramid judged against all other step 5 and 6 clubs across the entire country.