Basingstoke Town 1 – 3 Marlow Town The BIGFREEBET Cup Tuesday 9th January 2018
Well, that was a cracking night out for £20 (one adult, one concession). Call me Mr Picky, but I’m not entirely sure I got my money’s worth there.
Basingstoke Town followed their best result of the season with their worst as they were dumped out of the Southern League Cup 1-3 by moderate Step 4 outfit Marlow Town here tonight.
It would be easy to say that young keeper Gordiano Zabotti – who throughout looked a nervous shadow of the stopper who had impressed so much for the U21s – killed us with two errors that led to goals.
But it wasn’t the keeper’s fault that we failed to score until virtually the last kick of the game in a truly lifeless performance.
On a mild evening, in front of a dire gate of 110, and despite his words of impending doom and gloom after Saturday’s famous win, Manager Terry Brown was able to field a strong line up for tonight’s Cup tie.
In what looked a 3-4-1-2, he rested Colm McAdden and had Zabotti in goal, Guri Demuria, Shane Hollamby and Dan Bayliss were the three centre backs, Tim Wohlfiel and Jordan Goater were wing backs, Jack McKnight and Michael Atkinson were in central midfield, Ben Wright was in the hole, and Sam Argent and Callum Bunting were up top.
On the bench were: McAdden, Liam Hunt, Kane Macauley, Sam Smart and Kieron Rodgers.
We started well enough and, in the second minute, from a Wright corner, Bunting had a free header which went over the bar.
But there were already signs this would not be one-way traffic and two minutes later Marlow had a shot go wide from 25 yards out.
Wright was showing some nice touches and, in the seventh minute, he sent a volley from just to the left 25 yards out just over the bar.
We continued on top and, in the 16th minute, Wright played a lovely ball to Wohlfiel whose cross was met by Argent who headed over.
We were the dominant force but, once again, we hadn’t taken our early chances and, in the 18th minute, against the run of play, Marlow delivered a decent cross from the right, as the player cut inside onto his left foot, and the ball in went over Demuria’s head and former Btfc player Jordace Holder-Spooner was on hand to poke it home beyond Zabotti.
We struggled to respond.
In the 20th minute a low ball in from a Wright corner eluded everyone.
In the 24th minute Argent won a corner on the left.
Nothing came of it.
Ditto two more corners in the 26th minute.
The passing wasn’t great, but Goater put in a couple of decent crosses in the 31st minute, but no one got on the end of them.
And, in the 35th minute, Goater tried his luck from 30 yards out, but his effort went harmlessly over the bar.
In the 42nd minute, Argent picked out Wohlfiel with a nice pass, the wingback put in a cross, but Bunting and McKnight clashed in the air going for it, and in the ensuing melee we had a shout for a penalty for handball waved away.
The ball was cleared, but Atkinson halted a quick break with a decent sliding tackle.
We ended the half strongly.
In the 44th minute from a Wright corner Bunting got a decent header away which drew a good save from the Marlow keeper.
And right on half time Wright fed Argent on the right whose powerful shot from the edge of the area was also saved.
0-1 at the interval, but we had had our chances and there seemed no reason why we couldn’t get back into the tie second half if we injected more urgency into our play.
But we didn’t.
Four minutes into the second period and, not for the first time by any means, Bunting was caught offside.
Or was he just born offside?
Four minutes later – the sucker punch.
A Marlow player twists and turns, gets a decentish low shot away with his left, Zabotti spills it, is slow to react for the rebound and it’s 0-2.
Hard to believe that a player who looked so assured for the U21s could look quite such a bag of nerves as he did tonight.
Our initial response was for Wright to shoot wildly over – when Wohlfiel was the better option free to his right – in the 54th minute.
Two minutes later, from a free kick on the left, Bunting rose to get in a decent nod down, but Wright took a swing at the ball on the edge of the six-yard box and missed it.
And on the hour Wright almost released McKnight just inside the area after good link-up play.
Smart now replaced Hollamby as we seemed to go 4-2-4.
Caution to the winds stuff, but hardly ideal in the middle of the park where Marlow seemed to be playing a 4-5-1.
Suffice to say we were hopelessly overrun in midfield the rest of the night.
Anyway, Smart initially injected a bit of urgency and in the 63rd minute he put in a good cross from the right, the ball bobbled about in the area and finally Argent fired wide with his left.
We continued to toil in vain.
In the 67th minute Smart fed Argent on the left but his shot, cutting inside onto his right, was blocked.
A minute later, after a nasty foul round the neck on Smart deep on the right, from the ball in McKnight missed from short range.
It just wasn’t our Mc-night!
And Marlow still looked dangerous on the break – in the 74th minute they had a shot go well over the bar from the right.
Our passing was getting worse and worse with Wohlfiel and McKnight particular culprits.
And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any more depressing, in the 81st minute, a poor clearance from Zabotti from a backpass found a Marlow player who, from a fairly central position well over 30 yards out, was still able to beat our keeper at his near post low to his left with an accurate low shot.
0-3 and we are dead and buried.
We struggled on, and in the 88th minute the referee (who was poor, but let’s get real – he was not why we lost here) allowed a wrong offside call to stand after Smart received a pass in an onside position while Wright (who was inactive) was in a central offside position.
In the last minute of normal time, Wright headed weakly at the keeper from a Wohlfiel cross.
And in the 92nd minute a big chance spurned.
McKnight played a nice diagonal ball to Wohlfiel on the right, he put a decent low ball in and Wright got completely underneath the ball to hit the bar from inside the six-yard box.
Meagre consolation at the end as, deep into stoppage time, we got what looked a very soft penalty for a challenge on McKnight.
Wright sent the keeper the wrong way, putting the spot kick low to his left.
But it was too little too late and 16th in Step 4 a league lower had snuffed out our sole remaining hope of silverware.
I cannot offer any.
Without the suspended Charlie Kennedy we seemed bereft of hunger, passion and desire.
Marlow surely couldn’t believe their luck.
A really poor display, not the best tactically either, and we only made one change to try to turn it around.
In fact, it would be easy to form the impression based on this that the Manager is losing heart and already eyeing the exit come the season’s end.
And, though I hope that impression is wrong, if it is, in fact, the case then who could blame him?
Nice to see a full bench with three academy lads on it – on tonight’s showing by the first team regulars the academy boys deserve a bit of game time sooner rather than later.
Maybe at Chesham United on Saturday?
Match Report by Ian Davies