Braces from Kyle Belmonte and Bradley Gray see Evesham United overcome Lymington Town in a seven-goal thriller at the Spiers and Hartwell Jubilee Stadium on Saturday afternoon – writes Josh Evans.
A moment of madness from Thomas Chamberlain jeopardised the result at 3-2 when he kicked out on his marker and was given a straight red card.
However, a late break saw Belmonte become the hero of the day, which sparked scenes of jubilation as he celebrated with his fellow teammates and fans behind the goal.
It was a frantic start that saw Evesham press well in the early exchanges, but it was Lymington who took the lead on seven minutes when Luke Churchill fired a left-footed drive at goal, which deflected off Will Armitage and diverted into the net.
The Robins hit back soon after Michael Symons and Joe Hunt linked up well down the right and teed up Gray who maneuvered half a yard and drilled home into the far corner on 11 minutes.
Symons was involved again when he held the ball up expertly for the oncoming Belmonte who took the ball in his stride and slotted home with 19 minutes on the clock.
It was a dominant first half from the hosts, Adam Mace slid in Chamberlain whose effort was well smothered by Joe Coombes in the Lyms net.
Hunt also met a cross from the right with a looping header which was parried onto the crossbar before the ball went out for a corner.
Evesham showed the better glimpses of quality in the first 45 but the lead was a slim one going into the second half.
Lymington got themselves level on 50 minutes when Churchill whipped in a dangerous corner, which evaded Lewis Clayton’s grasp and Jason Brookes pounced to hammer home.
On debut for the Robins, Gray looked sharp and lively all game and doubled his personal tally on 56 minutes when Belmonte turned over possession high up, laid it to Gray who fired home under Coombes.
Evesham winger Chamberlain was sent off after 70 minutes when he kicked out at a Lymington midfielder after the ball had gone.
Referee Daniel Pattison spotted it and brandished the red without any doubts to his personal frustration, and left the field with a kick to the advertising boards too.
Evesham looked set to weather a storm for the final quarter of an hour as the visitors pressed, but it was long to hold out as Freddie Bullard went down in the penalty area under a challenge from Clayton.
The referee pointed to the spot and Bullard dusted himself down to slot home despite the best efforts from Clayton who went the right way, but it was all square at 3-3 after 83 minutes.
Both sides went for it towards the end, Gray looked certain to make it a hat-trick on his return to the club but was denied by a goal-line clearance and Coombes held onto the loose ball.
Also, Town’s defender and emergency striker for the second half, Stephen Walker, had a glaring opportunity six yards out from a floated cross but it didn’t have enough power to trouble Clayton.
It was Belmonte who became the hero though when a quick break when Gray released the driving midfielder and he rounded the ‘keeper to slot home in stoppage time.
The drama wasn’t over when Clayton clawed out a late header that looked destined for the top corner and Evesham held on for a dramatic victory.
Both sides are back in action next weekend (Saturday, January 22) when Evesham travel to Bristol Manor Farm and Lymington host Melksham Town.
Evesham United: Clayton, Hunt, Mace, Armitage, Paddock, Belmonte, Chamberlain, Dinsley, Symons, Gray, Lymn
Subs: Horrell, Sheehan, Djurovic, Sidibe, Smalley
Lymington Town: Coombes, Drake, Churchill, Gale, S Walker, Gorman, D Walker, Biss, Davies, Bullard, Brookes
Subs: Brown, Shearer
M&S Roofing Man of the Match – Bradley Gray (Evesham United)