WEYMOUTH 3 AFC TOTTON 3
THE Bob Lucas Stadium faithful saw thrills and spills aplenty in a pulsating 3-3 draw with Hampshire rivals AFC Totton.
After four high-scoring contests between the sides last term, goals were always on the cards and this game was never likely to disappoint with five first-half strikes in just 22 minutes of gripping action.
The Stags seized on a defensive blunder to edge in front through ex-Terra James Coutts before quickfire strikes from Scott Walker and Dan Smith gave Weymouth a short-lived 2-1 lead.
Totton immediately hit back through Richard Gillespie, who netted twice before the half-time whistle, but then the hosts earned themselves a point with a second strike from Smith midway through the second half.
For the second time in succes-sion, the Terras named an unchanged line-up that even included the same five substitutes who had appeared in the last two games.
The home side were handed a warning of Totton’s attacking intent when Simon Evans was forced into a smart save after just two minutes as Gillespie fired in from an acute angle after being slipped in by Jonathan Davies, who had cut the ball right through the middle of the Terras’ rearguard.
That man Gillespie then headed just over the bar from one of three Totton corners in the first five minutes before a dangerous cross from Davies narrowly eluded everyone, much to Weymouth’s relief.
Finally, after 17 minutes, the home crowd had something to cheer as Ben Joyce’s left-foot snapshot whistled wide and then the game burst into life with a flurry of four goals in just seven minutes after Weymouth had gift-wrapped an opening strike for returning midfielder Coutts on 20 minutes.
Stephen Reed was guilty of a howler as he stooped to play a simple headed back pass to Evans but got too little purchase on the ball and in ran Coutts to hammer past the hapless keeper.
But the Terras took immediate action and within four minutes they were all-square again when a Craig Duff centre from the right bounced up invitingly for skipper Walker to rifle home his third goal of the campaign from 12 yards.
And it got a whole lot better for the Terras just two minutes later in their very next attack.
Raiding down the left flank, Walker delivered a pin-point cross for Smith to send the home fans into raptures with a firm header from six yards that had keeper Gareth Barfoot well beaten.
However, Weymouth did not get too long to enjoy that lead as they soon conceded again – the third goal in just four minutes – as Evans was beaten following a corner.
Michael Gosney’s cross from the right flag was only partially cleared, allowing Gillespie to fire through the crowd and into the net.
Not satisfied, the Stags remained on the front foot hungry for a third and after former Magpie Dave Allen’s 25-yard attempted curler had just cleared the bar they edged ahead for the second time.
Gillespie picked up the ball in the centre circle and played an inch-perfect defence-splitting pass for Gosney, who outran the backtracking Sam Poole before slipping his shot under Evans for 3-2.
There was more action before everybody could take a breath at half-time as Smith tried to curl home from the edge of the box but failed to trouble Barfoot and then Gillespie hammered a cross-cum-shot through the six-yard box that, rather fortunately, came to nothing.
And the second half promised to be as exciting as the first once Walker had rattled the woodwork with a clipped 25-yard free-kick just three minutes in.
The hosts’ next chance fell to Duff, whose decent header was well held just before the hour mark, but, moments later, the same player looked to have earned the Terras a great chance to draw level again.
The midfielder appeared to be going nowhere on the right side of the box but then suddenly burst between two defenders and clattered to the ground.
Referee Gary Parsons did not look interested until, that is, he saw his assistant flag for an infringement and then immediately pointed to the spot for a somewhat fortuitous penalty.
However, Barfoot flung himself to his right to keep out Walker’s spot-kick and it was to take another piece of good fortune for the Terras to square it at three apiece.
There appeared little danger for Totton as Smith tried his luck with a daisycutter from 30 yards but somehow Barfoot let the ball spin out of his grasp and this time the same assistant ruled the ball had crossed the line with a host of claret shirts rushing in for the kill.
Then, late in injury-time, Smith’s dangerous centre was just glanced away with players queueing up to head home, and Weymouth had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Terras: Evans, McConnell (Clarke 74), Dixon (Groves 71), Reed, Crit-chell, Poole (Jeannin 51), Duff, Clay, Joyce, Smith, Walker. Subs not used: Ford, Povall.
Stags: Barfoot, Hill, Whitely, Bottomley, Whisken, Allen, Pettifer, Davies (Mason 58), Coutts, Gillespie, Gosney. Subs not used: Baldachinno, Rudd, Tomasso, Casey.