The Camrose is becoming a fortress in its old age.
Basingstoke Town produced a superb second-half performance to rip apart high-flying Redditch United here today and ultimately ran out thoroughly deserved 3-0 winners.
On an initially breezy afternoon, Colm McAdden returned in goal, the back four was Captain Marcus Johnston-Shuster, Shane Hollamby, Dan Bayliss and George Bennett, the midfield trio was Michael Atkinson, Charlie Kennedy and Sam Deadfield and Jack McKnight and Sam Smart were either side of Ben Wright up top.
After 24 goals, 17 for us, the last five games the first half was, in truth, often dull.
A quiet opening until the fifth minute when McAdden, who looked more assured today, saved low to his right at his near post after the Redditch number 9 turned and shot in the area.
Three minutes later it was their number 10 on the turn in the box but his effort was deflected then headed over.
And in the 12th minute their number 9 won a corner with more trickery.
With the wind assisting them, and their big keeper kicking from end to end, Redditch were edging the early exchanges.
However, in the 15th minute, Hollamby, superb yet again today, played a nice through ball 15 to Wright, who almost released Smart who was just muscled off the ball.
Then a minute later McKnight got free on the left but his cross from the byline was cleared.
19 minutes in and the most interesting incident of the first half – the referee went down injured.
The game restarted in the 29th minute after a replacement was found.
In the 36th minute from a Deadfield pass Wright was almost through one-on-one but the keeper gathered.
Two minutes later after a bad back pass Redditch had a shout for a penalty waved away after McAdden seemed to make contact deep near the byline to the right of the area.
End-to-end stuff now and the game opened up a bit.
In the 43rd minute Deadfield was fouled after a neat Wright back heel, but the latter’s shot was straight at the wall.
And a minute later Hollamby saved the day with a great last-ditch tackle after a defensive mix up.
In the 48th minute Bennett gave away a free kick to the left of the area, but from the dead ball in a header went harmlessly over the bar.
And in the 54th minute Wright produced a lovely flick on to Smart whose cross from the left was fired just wide by McKnight.
We then saw the game out to half time.
We had what was left of the breeze in our favour as we attacked the covered end second half.
But even so the first chance fell to Redditch a minute in as, after cutting inside from the right, a curling left footed in swinging effort went over the bar.
We soon responded and two minutes later we were in the offensive but the attack broke down after Kennedy went wide to Smart on the right and his cross was too heavy.
“You should have shot there, Charlie! Get some shots away, Blues!” roared Brown.
It was, in due course, to prove sage advice.
Seven minutes in and Johnston-Shuster put in a good cross from deep on the right and McKnight headed just over.
A minute later, amid all his deft touches and beautifully pinged passes, Hollamby got in yet another good important tackle.
And nine minutes in, as Redditch now under the cosh started to give away more fouls, from a Deadfield free kick on the left Bayliss went just over with a header.
We were definitely well on top now and in the 57th minute Bayliss again at the far post, firing at the keeper after another dead ball in.
Redditch quickly broke but this time Bennett was there to clean up with a timer sliding tackle.
Just after the hour a big chance.
Kennedy, who offers us so much in midfield, won a corner, and Deadfield’s second ball in was as sublime as his initial effort had been poor and was met by the head of Hollamby who agonisingly hit the inside of the post with the keeper beaten all ends up.
The game was getting really stretched now as both sides pressed for the vital opening goal and in the 66th minute their number 10 fired over the bar from a cross from the right.
The first goal was bound to be crucial and, in the 74th minute, the key moment.
Kennedy fed the rapid Smart who beat their big centre back to the back in the area, the latter made a clumsy challenge, down went Smart and the referee pointed to the spot.
You’d just about bet your house on Wright to score every spot kick he takes and this was yet another trademark clinical strike, low hard and unstoppable to the keeper’s left even if he had gone the right way.
Which he didn’t.
Body blow to the visitors, a massive fillip to us – and it gets better.
In the 78th minute, Atkinson, who had a cracking game with several tackles and almost flawless pass completion, fed a nice little square pass to Johnston-Shuster who unleashed an absolute screamer from fully 25 yards out to beat the keeper in his top right hand corner.
Delirium among the crowd of 286 as consistent winning home football slowly but surely nudges us back towards the 300 mark.
A minute later Wright, who yet again had put in a good shift and done his job in his trademark clinical style, was replaced by Callum Bunting.
Marking my card before the game, Brown told me Bunting is a major aerial presence and he certainly won everything in the air the last 11 minutes.
But more than that, in the 83rd minute, after Kennedy released Smart again, it was Bunting who got in front of his man at the near post to finish ruthlessly to make it three.
Bunting went straight to the BTG to celebrate like he’d been with the Club four years – as opposed to on the pitch four minutes – and that is something I love to see.
He could become very popular very fast if he carries on in similar vein.
Ashleigh Artwell replaced the again tireless and influential (two assists) Smart with five minutes to go and Artwell showed some nice touches.
Bit of afters following a foul on Deadfield a minute from the end and almost handbags at dawn after their keeper didn’t react well to an observation from Kennedy after the final whistle (first second half I ever saw with zero stoppage time) and that was it.
As usual, those clutching pint half empty glasses will say our opponents will poor.
And as usual the pint half full like me will point out they were in the play-off places at kick off and we made them look poor.
Who knows where the truth lies, but one thing is for sure.
Despite the reduced budget, despite the uncertainty over the future, in fact despite everything, we are banging in the goals, the football is entertaining and if we could play at home every week we’d be play-off material.
As it stands we are 11th, 4pts outside the play-off zone tonight, and though most Clubs have games in hand of us, I for one will gladly take that in the current climate.
I’m so happy I might even jump in my car and drive to Fleet Tuesday night now! 😂👍⚽️
Match Report – Ian Davies