Southern Premier League – Saturday 24th March 2018
Basingstoke Town 1 – 4 Slough Town Attendance 503
Deprived of the services of forward Sam Argent and centre back Shane Hollamby, and with Ben Wright out on loan, a suddenly thin-looking Basingstoke Town squad was put to the sword by play-off and promotion candidates Slough Town here at The Camrose today.
1-4 was the final score and, ultimately, it didn’t flatter the rampant visitors one bit.
On a mild but grey and gloomy late March Saturday afternoon, Manager Terry Brown had to shuffle his pack and he started off with Colm McAdden in goal, Tom Leggett right back, George Bennett left back, Guri Demuria and Dan Bayliss centre backs, Charlie Kennedy, Michael Atkinson and Dan Collier in holding midfield, Jack McKnight in the hole and Sam Smart and Callum Bunting up top.
We got off to the perfect start.
In the very first minute, an innocuous through ball from McKnight, a Slough defensive error, and Smart was clean through and calmly punished the error by slotting the ball home left of the keeper from about 15 yards out to give us the lead.
Hereford all over again?
Sadly not this time.
A mere four minutes later, in came a low cross from the left, it wasn’t dealt with, there was a mix up and it was 1-1.
We tried to restore our advantage.
Though they were too far apart at times to link up properly, in the 11th minute Smart volleyed over the bar on the bounce from the right from a Bunting flick on.
But Slough were starting to get on top and in the 13th minute they had two corners in quick succession.
They came to nothing, but ex-Btfc legend Manny Williams was starting to creep menacingly into the game and in the 23rd minute he forced a good low save to his left from McAdden.
McAdden was again in great form and three minutes later he made a superb take from a wicked free kick in from the left.
And in the 29th minute a whipped ball in from the right was also caught cleanly with McAdden barely batting an eyelid.
He’s come a long way since that costly howler when we had an FA Cup tie at our mercy.
Up the other end, in the 32nd minute the hardworking Bunting intercepted a ball out from the back.
But his ball in a attempt to supply Smart was poor.
In fact Smart got no service all afternoon, with Collier and McKnight the main culprits in the pass completion department.
In the 39th minute Atkinson, who again worked hard, won a free kick 35 yards out on the right. The much-improved Bennett put in yet another peach of a ball but no one could get on the end of it.
And in the 40th minute Kennedy saw his deflected shot go for a corner, but the somewhat fussy referee saw an infringement as Bennett’s ball came in.
Then disaster right on half time.
The Slough number 3 was allowed to bring the ball down – it has to be said Leggett struggled at right back and Slough sensed this and sent a lot down that channel – and drove in a low shot from 25 yards out through players which the unsighted McAdden had no chance with.
It was a blow right at the interval but tbh probably what Slough deserved on the balance of play.
Worse was to come.
Eight minutes into the second half and the injured Atkinson was replaced by Goater who went left back with Bennett advanced into wide left midfield.
But immediately, from a needless free kick given away, in came a ball from the left and no one got within three yards of Williams who had a free header from the edge of the six-yard box for 1-3.
On the hour, the frustrated Smart, still not one hundred percent, was replaced by Sam Deadfield who went in the hole with McKnight pushed up top.
We tried in vain to get a lifeline back into the game.
In the 67th minute a better ball from McKnight found Leggett bursting through on the right, but the young player got underneath the ball and his shot crashed against the bar and away to safety.
But though we were getting forward the game was getting stretched and Slough still looked dangerous on the counter.
That said, a key moment 77 minutes in as Bunting had what looked a good shout for a penalty waved away by the increasingly unpopular man in black.
For me it was one of those – I’ve seen them given, I’ve seen them not given – incidents.
Young Goater was showing plenty of flair down the left too and put in a few decent balls.
But it was hardly one-way traffic.
In the 80th minute a shot from the right was straight at McAdden.
And a minute later a great save with his feet by McAdden from a shot on the turn after Bayliss failed to clear.
And in the 82nd minute Williams cut inside the area from the left and fired just over the bar.
End-to-end stuff and very stretched now and in the 85th minute we won a corner after an excellent Kennedy switching pass found Leggett.
That was cleared, but a minute later Demuria, pushing forward, turned in the area, beat his man and got a shot off for another corner.
That was cleared, but come back in and in the 87th minute Deadfield skied an effort over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box on the right.
We were finishing the stronger though it had to be said, with Slough now sitting on their two-goal cushion.
And it was the visitors who were to have the last laugh.
In the first of four minutes stoppage time, Williams again rolled back the years, skinning Bayliss for pace.
McAdden did brilliantly to stand up and block the little veteran’s one-on-one shot.
But Williams wasn’t fazed, he picked up the loose ball, beat Demuria to the by-line, and pulled the ball back for the onrushing Simon Dunn (also ex-Btfc) to slot home for 1-4.
Thus did our visitors avenge the 4-1 battering we gave them in the corresponding fixture last season.
For Slough, the play-offs beckon.
For us, a tricky trip to King’s Lynn Town Tuesday night.
After that, Royston and Stratford Town away aside, some juicy home fixtures against lowly opposition in Farnborough, Bishop’s Stortford, Dunstable Town, and King’s Langley.
If we are ever going to give experimental game time minutes to a few of the U21s it will surely be in that quartet of home fixtures.
And though a recent 6-0 by half time battering by mid-table Step 4 outfit Moneyfields doesn’t augur well for what the youngsters collectively might have to offer in Step 3, I still think there are individuals – Liam Hunt, Kieron Rodgers and Luke Richardson top my short list – who it would be good to see get a few first-team game time minutes before this season is done.
Match Report by Ian Davies