Is Terry Brown Gandalf?
Because he certainly magicked a win out of an unpromising position there.
The Basingstoke Town Manager took his wizardry to new levels today, as his new signing Sam Argent scored twice and his substitute Ashleigh Artwell scored with his first touch, a minute after taking the field, to give Btfc a 3-1 victory here today that frankly looked unlikely and barely deserved for much of the match.
Sam Smart, quiet for large parts of the game, came to life for assists on all three goals, the final one outstanding.
On a breezy but dry October afternoon at The Camrose, in front of a crowd of 486, the biggest League gate for many a moon, the first surprise was to see that Brown evidently couldn’t choose between his quartet of forwards so played them all!
It wasn’t quite a 4-2-4 – Ben Wright was probably playing a bit deeper than Callum Bunting and Smart, who were either side of debutant Argent up top – but at times it wasn’t far off.
Colm McAdden returned in goal, Marcus Johnston-Shuster and Tim Wohlfiel were right and left back, Shane Hollamby and Dan Bayliss were the centre backs, and Michael Atkinson was holding midfield, lying slightly deeper than Charlie Kennedy.
Against a strong, well-organised, decent Banbury United outfit, we started the game well despite playing into the cross wind and attacking the Clubhouse End.
In the second minute Kennedy played a nice diagonal ball to Wright but his cross from the right was too deep.
It proved an omen for, in the fifth minute, Kennedy fed Smart on the right, the young forward whipped in a low early cross, the keeper fumbled it and the predatory Argent was in the right place at the right time to bundle the ball over the line to give us the lead.
Banbury tried to respond quickly and a minute later they had a low shot from the left fly just wide.
Then in the tenth minute Atkinson conceded a free kick 30 yards out and, from the ball in, a shot flew well over the bar.
The visitors kept up the pressure, won a corner three minutes later but the resulting header went harmlessly wide.
Then in the 20th minute the ball bounced over Hollamby and they got in behind but the shot was straight at McAdden.
Three minutes after that, from a cross from the left, McAdden had to be brave to deprive big Jefferson Louis.
This made up for his two consecutive goal kicks straight into touch earlier.
In the 26th minute they won another corner but the ball in eluded everyone.
We had been under the hammer for a spell but, in the 31st minute, respite as Argent chested the ball down to Wright whose fierce shot from the left of the area 25 yards out was just parried.
And in the 34th minute Wright won free kick 25 yards out and his low shot drew a good save from their keeper low to his left.
But overall, with Banbury patient despite being behind, we were struggling to penetrate their two banks of four or to create much, with no outlet down the left as Bunting clearly lacked pace.
In the 42nd minute Banbury were on the attack again, but the cross was too deep
And then, just when we seemed to have seen it out to lead at half time, their number 11 broke through in the middle and equalised with a left-foot strike from distance.
No changes at half time but Bunting did move more central with Argent, whose work rate was evoking memories of Aaron Jarvis, getting into wide positions on the left.
A minute in and Argent won us a corner.
From that the ball fell loose and Smart tried a lob which landed on the roof of the net.
We then came back under pressure and in the 57th minute McAdden, who had a decent game today, made a good take from a wicked deep cross from the left.
Two minutes later Banbury had another corner but the tame header it produced was wide.
But still we were struggling and, in addition to his lack of pace, Bunting’s touch was letting him down and the big target man was getting visibly frustrated with himself.
We continued to live dangerously and in the 67th minute Wohlfiel lost the ball on the left, but fortunately the attack came to nothing.
A minute Louis had a wild shot go way over – fortunately he offered little today.
In the 71st minute Atkinson, who had battled well in front of the back four and been knocked around for his pains, came off for Dan Collier.
Then, in the 75th minute, the change many of us had wanted to see at half time – the ineffective today Bunting off and Artwell on.
But Brown’s timing was to be royally and instantly vindicated.
A mere minute later, the ever-a-handful Argent picked up the ball, fed Kennedy, who went wide to Smart who whipped in a low ball from the right which was met at the far post by Artwell who scored with his first touch of the ball.
Banbury were at full stretch now to try to retrieve the game and were suddenly vulnerable on the counter.
And Brown turned the screw three minutes later bringing on fresh legs in Jack McKnight for Wright.
Banbury struggled in vain.
In the 84th minute McKnight conceded a foul 40 yards out, but nothing came of it.
A minute later they shot well over the bar and in the 87th minute their best chance as their number 4 on the run from 25 yards out unleashed a decent effort which just went over the bar.
But all of this left them very stretched and in the 90th minute on the break Smart fed Argent who got clean through on goal and his lovely little dink over the onrushing stranded keeper dipped too late and clipped the bar.
But Smart and Argent were to have the last laugh.
In the third and final minute of stoppage time Smart was on the break again and he whipped in the most phenomenal inch-perfect low ball to Argent who finished clinically and ruthlessly to seal the win.
Argent, a quiet shy guy by reputation, who will probably have hated being the focus of so much attention this week, ran to the fans in joy to celebrate and it was great to see.
The Btfc supporters love him already – and long may it last.
And so the referee blew time on yet another home win, one they moves us up to tenth place tonight.
Not our most convincing win but, as the cliche goes, if you can win when you’re not at your best that’s the sign you are in for a good season.
I doubt Brown will be trying the all-the-forward-eggs-in-one-basket formation again in a hurry, but various positives against decent opposition today, not least the tireless Argent’s brace and the hat-trick of assists for Smart.
Artwell looked sharp generally when he came on in addition to scoring and after the final whistle Sam Deadfield told me he expects his knee issue to have cleared up and to be back next Saturday.
Things are definitely looking up for this football club and its magician of a Manager.
Match Report – Ian Davies