Game 1: Andover Town 7.1 Hedge End Rangers (Friendly) 29.07.17
An 11 o clock kick off at a new ground with options for a double header meant this was an easy choice for the first game of the season. The match was played at Sparsholt College near Winchester. At the back of the main car park were two pitches, one open and one fenced off with moveable dugouts and goals. There was no cover for the 40 or so spectators other than the trees on the raised hill behind one of the goals.
The game kicked off on time with rainclouds threatening – typical English summer day! Andover are one of the better teams in the Wessex Premier and that showed against their step 7 opponents. There were six goals in the first half and the woodwork was hit on more than one occasion. The goals were scored in the 4th minute (low shot into corner), 12th minute (header from corner), 14th minute (shot that looked to be wide but had passed through the goal net), 31st minute (keeper lost the ball, striker knocked it into unguarded net), 34th minute (ball passed back on breakaway, low shot in) and the pick of the bunch in the 36th minute – a shot from nearly the halfway line that beat the retreating keeper. By now the rain was quite heavy and the brolly was up.
I watched most of the second half sheltering under the trees behind the goal, only venturing out towards the end of the game as the rain died down. Hedge End scored from a nice dribble and low shot after 49 minutes, Andover added a seventh in injury time, a lob over the keeper had enough pace to beat the covering defender to the goal line. There was one flashpoint towards the end when an Andover player was unhappy at a strong tackle, the referee inviting the visiting manager onto the pitch to calm things down and lead his player off for a substitution.