Away point for Crusaders
'Game of two halves' sees points shared.
A Crusaders team stripped to the bone by holidays and injuries travelled up to Andover New Street for their first competitive fixture of the season. Bereft of a goalkeeper, player/manager Guy Bewick was forced to don the gloves behind a new look defensive unit.
Despite fielding a number of player combinations not used in pre-season, Crusaders started brightly down the New Street slope. The first ten minutes saw the hosts pinned into their own half, with Crusaders passing the ball around nicely. Crusaders nearly took the lead when an optimistic 35 yard effort from Adam Smith crashed off the bar and down to the floor. In the absence of hawk-eye and with the linesman being from Andover rather than Russia, play continued and Crusaders failed to convert the loose ball. Suspicion is that MOTD highlights may show a goal should have been awarded!
After this scare, New Street gradually worked themselves into the game. Crusaders were still dictating play, but the hosts counter attacks were starting to create problems. First a loose ball broke to the home forward 7 yards out and keeper Bewick had to be alert to block the shot, then a header from a corner was looping in at the near post before Michael Mustoe headed clear from the line.
Crusaders finally broke the deadlock in the 38th minute when a corner was only partially cleared to the edge of the box where centre half Adam Smith showed good composure to control and drill a shot into the net. The goal preceded another period of dominance for Crusaders who could have added to their tally further with another shot that crashed off the bar and several promising positions behind the home full backs. However, the teams went in at half time with Crusaders just the one goal up.
After the first half performance, Crusaders were confident of pulling away in the 2nd half, but it soon became evident that the slope was a bigger factor in the game than realised. It was now New Street's time to dominate and after a counter from Crusaders saw them hit the bar yet again, the home teams attacks became incessant and increasingly dangerous. The hosts finally found the equaliser when a cross-field free kick was headed down in the box and the loose ball swept home from 8 yards.
The remainder of the game was a battle, but Crusaders stood up to the task and another goal line clearance saw the draw secured.
All in all a good day, with both Crusaders footballing and battling qualities on show despite the number of key absentees. A tricky away fixture is now out of the way with a point picked up and the team can now look to push on in their next two home league games.