Were we just transported to a parallel universe (if so, can we stay there please)?
In one of the most astonishing turnarounds in form I have ever witnessed, Terry Brown once again demonstrated he is a sheer magician of a Manager by sending out his Basingstoke Town squad to notch a scintillating 5-0 victory over hitherto midtable Chesham United.
What a way to get off the mark after three straight defeats.
The only possible criticism is that we rode our luck to keep a clean sheet and five should have been ten – there will be days when we will need to be more clinical in front of goal.
It would be easy to say Chesham were poor, but the reality surely is that they are an average Step 3 side who were simply played off the park by a Btfc squad containing players who, on their day, are too good for this level.
On a warm and sunny late August afternoon, Brown set up with a 4-3-3 with Colm McAdden in goal, captain Marcus Johnston-Schluster right back, Shane Hollamby and Dan Bayliss centre backs, and newcomer Tim Wohlfiel left back.
Charlie Kennedy, Dan Collier and Michael Atkinson were in midfield and Sam Smart, Ben Wright and Aaron Jarvis were up top.
In the very first minute Smart, simply magnificent today, burst through wide left to win a corner in combination with Collier, but that, and another almost immediately thereafter, came to nothing.
Two minutes later, Jarvis, who had his best game of the season so far, was almost put through by Wright.
Chesham were already on the back foot and today we made the visitors pay dearly.
In the fifth minute Atkinson won the ball back in midfield, fed Smart, who showed blinding pace on the right before a low ball in right across goal which found Jarvis, who unselfishly pulled the ball back into the path of Wright whose perfect low finish across the keeper with his left foot gave us an early but already deserved lead.
We almost added a second as we poured forward again but the next clear chance fell to the visitors in the eighth minute.
A McAdden parry put the ball back into the path of a Chesham player, who should have done better, but blasted over the bar.
A short worrying spell now, with Bayliss injured after 14 minutes before bravely returning bandaged to put in a courageous shift, Johnston-Schluster passed way too easily on our right to concede a corner and great link up play from Wright and Jarvis culminating in a bad miss from Wright when you’d have bet your house on him to score.
The game got scrappy with little quality on either side, but then a decisive moment.
In the 38th minute Jarvis fed the ball into the path of Smart, who like lightning was onto it before the Chesham defender who brought him down to the left in the area for a clear penalty.
Up steps Wright to send the keeper the wrong way – not that it would have mattered as he put the ball low into the keeper’s bottom left hand corner with clinical pace and power.
Chesham were already on their knees and shortly after it should have been three but, not for the first time in his young career, Jarvis shot straight at the keeper, though to be fair he tried a dummy first, feigning as if to shoot, but the keeper wasn’t falling for it and stood up well.
Then in the 40th minute Kennedy, simply sensational at times today, loving being back in midfield and getting forward more with Atkinson and Collier anchoring matters in behind him, went on a surging run and fired just wide from outside.
But a minute before half time, we rode our luck as a cross from the left resulted in a header which hit the bar with McAdden beaten.
Thus we held on to lead 2-0 at the interval.
As expected Chesham came out fighting start of the second half and we made a nervy start.
But the visitors failed to fashion much and five minutes in yet more good work from Smart took the heat off and we won a corner.
Nothing came from that but four minutes later and it was that man Smart again, another electric paced run on the right and a powerful shot just over the bar.
You sensed the third goal might be coming and in the 57th minute, yet more speed from the supersonic Smart, who then neatly supplied Wright who then fed the most sublime ball across the goal into the path of the rapid Jarvis who finished to make it 3-0 and game over.
It was party time now and, like any young side that has found its confidence, we had morphed from Step 3 strugglers into a team suddenly looking far too good for this level of football.
On the hour we were back in their box and a simply delightful diagonal ball from Wright found Atkinson on the edge of the six-yard box whose pull back found Jarvis for a tap-in for 4-0.
Two forwards in fab form, scoring and assisting with two goals each.
But if there was a man on the park who deserved a goal most of all it was Smart and I am delighted to say he got it.
For, after the hat-tricking seeking Jarvis had sent a piledriver of a shot over the bar in the 66th minute and after Wright had departed the field on 72 minutes, as Jack Knight came on, a moment of sheer audacity.
Good work from Jarvis on the right to feed Kennedy, who then demonstrated he is not just a smiling assassin of a holding midfielder by producing the cheekiest of back heels to Smart who tucked the ball away to make it five.
Already a fans’ favourite – and he knows it – Smart ran behind the goal to celebrate with the fans (as Wright had done at 1-0 earlier) and Smart departed the field a hero four minutes later, to a sustained ovation as Connor Davies came on.
Davies was instantly busy and used his 15 minutes to good effect, as did Charlie McCann who came on for the excellently solid Collier on 83 minutes.
McCann had a decent effort and in the 87th minute Jarvis was in again but once more fired at the keeper.
Pleasingly, we ended the game as we started it, on the attack and Davies had a good effort go over the bar near the death.
But of course it mattered not.
So ended one of the most astonishing turnarounds in form in my ten years on and off following the Club.
If ever there was a shred of doubt we have a genius in the dug-out it surely evaporated today.
Brown is operating on a quarter of last season’s budget yet he seems to be able to magic talent out of thin air and harness and motivate it to perform.
The Club’s track record on player acquisition down the years has been chequered to say the least.
But look at today.
Smart – what a find from Step 5 that lad is. Pace, skill and rapidly-improving technique.
The left back Wohlfiel. We’ve been a bit spoilt going forwards in that position in recent years with Tom Bird, Rob Atkinson and George Bennett (Ill today).
Wohlfiel looks more of an old-fashioned defensive left back, and I thought he did a really solid job today.
And Davies clearly has ability as he showed again in the last 15.
And the rest of the squad were clearly bang up for it despite three straight defeats.
Hollamby and the brave Bayliss – both much better today.
Atkinson and Collier – very solid and giving the excellent Kennedy licence to roam.
Jarvis – back to form, and if he’s still a work in progress in the finish well at least he’s getting into good positions more and more now as two goals today demonstrated.
And as for Wright? Well, just superb today and I owe him an apology for implying in the past he might be a bit too selfish at times.
A trademark clinical finish and an unstoppable penalty, but more than that some sublime, majestic link-up play and assists in and around the box.
Different class, frankly, and everything we hoped Wright would be in this league.
On this evidence, we ain’t going down, not least because if we finish 24th then Chesham are finishing 25th and there are only 24 Clubs in the league!
Chesham are, in fact, far from the worst team in the Southern Premier.
We just made them look bad.
Onto Gosport on Monday with a real chance of a first win on the road.
Match Report – Ian Davies