Basingstoke Town 3 – 3 Weymouth
Football, like life, is a game of ever-changing expectations.
I went to The Camrose tonight expecting to see us taken apart by Weymouth yet left bitterly disappointed we had been held to a 3-3 draw in a thriller that featured the best goal I have ever seen at The Camrose (again – and both this one and its predecessor scored this season by the same remarkable young man).
On a very cold late November evening the initial bad news was that Shane Hollamby was out injured.
Manager Terry Brown opted for a 4-3-1-2, with Colm McAdden in goal, Tim Wohlfiel right back, Jordan Goater left back, Guri Demuria and Captain Charlie Kennedy centre backs, a midfield trio of Dan Collier, George Bennett and Jack McKnight, and Ben Wright in the hole just behind Sam Argent and Sam Smart.
We started briskly and in the third minute McKnight won a free kick on the right and Wright’s effort from the dead ball went just over the near post.
We continued to dominate but a number of attempted pinged long balls were going astray.
In the ninth minute Wohlfiel, who had a good game, put in some great work down the right before a fab cross which was cleared for a corner that came to nothing.
And in the 11th minute Bennett tried his luck from outside the area to the right and his left-footed inswinging effort bent just over the bar.
Controversy three minutes later as the Weymouth keeper, rushing out of his area as Smart chased a long ball, clearly handled but the referee waved it away and instead gave a foul for a subsequent foul on Smart.
Smart was proving a real handful and in the 19th minute he won another free kick, this time near the corner flag on the left.
But Wright’s ball in was poor.
In fact, the big fella was struggling first half.
In the 21st minute Argent delivered a great cross towards him from the right.
Now you’d think with a name like Wright he’d be good in the air, but there’s too much baggage in the hold nowadays and Wright didn’t get off the run way.
Weymouth had offered next to nothing so far, but in the 24th minute all it took was a diagonal pass to put them clean through on the right, but we had a real let-off as the shot flew well over the bar.
Two minutes later Smart picked out Wright with an inswinging right-footed cross from the left, but Wright’s attempted volley was a shocker and went closer to the corner flag than the goal.
And in the 29th minute another attack broke down as Wright lost the ball – it didn’t look like it was his night.
But two minutes later it seemed to matter not as Smart showed great pace down the right before whipping in a great ball to Argent who made no mistake with a ruthless header to give us a well-deserved lead on the balance of play.
Weymouth tried to respond quickly and on 33 minutes great covering work from McKnight who cleared a cross with a header for a corner which we dealt with.
We continued overall on top and in the 36th minute Argent, having a fab game, tormented the Weymouth defence in the area and won a corner.
That was cleared but a minute later the first bit of quality from Wright who delivered a good cross which just eluded Kennedy.
Weymouth had a brief spell now and in the 38th minutes after Demuria’s pass went astray the Terras made a good run down the left and won a corner.
That was dealt with, but in the 40th minute they fashioned a low shot from the right but straight at McAdden.
60 seconds later the moment of the night.
The ball fell to Smart just outside the are to the right and the diminutive young forward unleashed the most vicious dipping volley which flew into the keeper’s far too corner crashing into the net off the underside of the cross bar.
It was, quite simply, the best goal I ever saw at The Camrose and I believe I had said pretty much the same thing about Smart’s goal against Merthyr earlier in the autumn.
He’s a amazing young man – a rare combination of x-factor and tireless work rate – and his multiple-somersault goal celebration was a piece of sublime pure football theatre to round it off.
To Weymouth’s credit they came out fighting from the restart.
In the 43rd minute Demuria intercepted a cross from the right, heading clear for a corner.
We dealt with that, ditto a speculative long-range effort from the right a minute later which McAdden pushed away at his near post.
We seemed to have seen the game out until half-time but then, in the last minute, in floats a cross from the left, it’s headed down at the far post and there is a Weymouth shirt to finish and halve our lead at the interval.
A nervous half time as clearly the visitors, who had offered little until the last five minutes, would come out and have a right go at us second half and the next goal – 3-1 or 2-2 – would surely be decisive?
Sure enough, Weymouth started the half the stronger, Demuria was starting to have a torrid time of it and in the 51st minute after he couldn’t deal with an attack to the left of the area it was left to Goater, who struggled a bit first half but was much better second, to clear.
But we weathered the early pressure and in the 53rd minute Smart made another surging run before being cynically fouled.
Up steps Wright and from my angle he appeared to unleash a cannon ball of a free kick with the outside of his right foot which beat the Weymouth keeper for pace and power at his near post, flying into the top corner.
Mobile, he ain’t, and his first touch and passing just weren’t good enough first half either, but Wright’s still got a cannon in his right boot and he showed it there.
Sadly, however, whereas a first half two-goal lead lasted all of four minutes, this one lasted all of 40 seconds.
Almost immediately from the restart, an innocuous ball down the middle opened us up, a clinical finish gave McAdden no chance and it’s 3-2.
Bizarrely, though still a goal up, it was us now seemingly chasing the game.
In the 58th minute their keeper needlessly came for a cross right in the edge of the area, dropped it, then handled just outside the area as this time the referee spotted it and gave him a yellow.
That should have been the end of his evening, of course, after the identical misdemeanour in the first half went unnoticed hence unpunished.
Wright delivered another thunderbolt but. to be fair to him, the Weymouth keeper pulled off a fantastic save low to his right.
We continued to press as if a goal down, not up.
And in the 63rd minute Goater, growing in confidence, won a corner after good work down the right.
Weymouth were barely getting chance to chase the game, but in the 68th minute they skied an effort from outside the box.
Six minutes later, us again as a McKnight run won a corner, it was partially cleared to the left of the area, Argent’s inventive overhead kick put the ball back into the mix, but it was bundled away.
A minute later McKnight burst forward again and his powerful shot from the right hit the near-post stantion.
And in the 78th minute a good ball cross field from Bennett to Argent, the latter then put in a decent cross from the left and Wright’s first-time left-foot volley went wide.
A minute later more great work from Goater down the left culminated in a superb low ball in which the onrushing McKnight inexplicably dummied at the near post (no one behind him at the far post).
Weymouth were struggling and getting desperate now, not creating much, but in the 81st minute they were allowed an uncontested cross from deep on the right which resulted in a shot well over the bar.
A minute later Callum Bunting replaced the exhausted Wright, who had redeemed himself second half.
We were trying to wind the clock down now and in the 87th minute Smart, incredibly still running, won a free kick at the corner flag in the right.
More seconds ticking by.
The game drifted into stoppage time and we began to drop deeper and deeper.
We needed to close out this game.
But we didn’t.
In the 92nd minute, a switching ball was picked up from the right and the cross back in took a wicked deflection which gave McAdden no chance and squared it up at 3-3.
We were stunned.
There was just time for McKnight, who appeared to have cramp, to be replaced by Luke Richardson (first team debut for him) but, though Jason Bristow held up a Board denoting four minutes stoppage time we had already by then played the four on my watch and sure enough the final whistle blew.
What can you say?
Second-placed Weymouth offered less then expected, we dominated play and deserved the win, but twice in this match we had the cushion of a two-goal lead but we failed to see out the game for a victory.
Massively frustratingly for everyone, and surely most of all the Manager on a night when he was rumoured to have had to release both Ashleigh Artwell and Marcus Johnston-Schuster for financial reasons.
But no doubt there will be confirmation, or otherwise, of that at tomorrow’s meeting.
Back on the pitch, the next mission now will be the trip to Winchester City next week in the Hampshire Cup.
Cold comfort tonight as we left the ground that, on tonight’s form, we should brush aside the Step 4 outfit easily, but though we agonisingly dropped points at home tonight, THAT goal from young Smart will surely live long in the memory.
Match Report: Ian Davies