Romsey began their 2024 fixtures with an almighty New Year’s hangover after Downton inflicted an 8-0 defeat on them last Saturday, their heaviest since suffering a similar scoreline at Lymington Town in 2014. 

Town’s recent unbeaten five games’ run came to a juddering halt at the Robins’ Nest, as the Bypass Boys finished the match with just nine players after a calamitous performance against opponents whose clinical finishing saw them go top of the Division One table, writes Tony Galsworthy.

The opening ten minutes were evenly contested with no hint of the goals’ glut to follow. The hosts took the lead in the 13th minute when the Division’s top scorer Joe Smith latched onto a simple long ball over Town’s defence that saw him race clear and shoot low past Bartram. Town responded with long range efforts by Sexton-Chadwick and Brackley which were comfortably held by the Robins’ ‘keeper, before Bryant headed over from a free kick. A fine save by Bartram saw him foil Smith, before Downton doubled their lead in the 37th minute when Town failed to deal with a corner and Clarke’s shot was driven in from close range.

Town’s hopes of regrouping during the interval were dashed as they conceded two more goals in a three minutes’ spell at the end of the half. First, Davies’ low free kick deceived Bartram and squirmed under his dive, before the young keeper was shown a red card and conceded a penalty when barging into an attacker after making a good low save. The referee deemed this to be violent conduct and despite Town sending on substitute ‘keeper Sam White, Osman beat him from the penalty spot to give the Robins a 4-0 advantage.

With just ten men and the hosts firing on all cylinders, the second half was always going to be an uphill task for Town and so it proved as Griffiths and Davies each added goals in the 50th and 57th minutes. A triple substitution by Romsey stemmed the tide briefly and White made some impressive saves, but when another cross evaded their defence in the 73rd minute Moseley gleefully smashed it into the net off the underside of the bar. Shorey had to leave the action with an injury reducing Town to nine men with all their substitutes already used. In the final minute Downton’s right back made a determined sprint down the flank and cut back the ball to Davies who converted for his hat trick, repeating a feat he achieved in last season’s 6-1 victory over Romsey, to complete an 8-0 rout.

Town begin a hectic January spell of six games in eighteen days when they face Ash United at The AEC Protection Ground tomorrow (ko 3pm) before travelling to Totton & Eling next Tuesday (ko 7.45pm).