Basingstoke Town swept aside Merthyr Town, last season’s third of 24, in a display which surely left all who braved the weather to witness it convinced they had seen a miracle, and featured the best finish I ever saw at The Camrose.
Three straight defeats now followed by a fourth consecutive win, with this one of the best of the lot.
On a truly dreadful wet and windy night at The Camrose Manager Terry Brown set out his stall for this very tough-looking assignment with what looked like a 4-3-1-2.
Colm McAdden was in goal, skipper Marcus Johnston-Schuster was right back, Tim Wohlfiel was left back, Shane Hollamby returned from illness at centre back alongside Dan Bayliss, Charlie Kennedy, Michael Atkinson and Dan Collier were in midfield, Sam Deadfield was in the hole and Ben Wright played just off Sam Smart up top.
Merthyr had a reputation for being a good footballing team and, despite the conditions, they made a bright start, passing the ball around.
In the third minute McAdden was called into action to save a shot from the right of the area.
And a minute later Merthyr hit the side netting after marauding down the right with Wohlfiel having a torrid time of it early doors.
However, despite the wind and rain being against us first half, we started to come in to it.
In the eighth minute Atkinson, in good form tonight, sent in a deflected low cross from the right and Wright on the turn fired just wide.
In the 13th minute Deadfield, excellent tonight and back to the superb form he showed first half of last season, supplied Wright with a neat square ball and the big forward shot just over the bar with his left from outside the area.
The visitors continued to look dangerous, though and in the 15th minute McAdden, looking nervy st times tonight, flapped at a corner which was cleared and in the 19th minute he fumbled a cross from deep before recovering.
But we weathered the storm with our fullbacks temporarily switching flanks at one point which took the pressure off a bit.
End-to-end stuff now and in the 29th minute Deadfield almost fed Wright with a sweet little through ball but the keeper just got there first.
Then five minutes later a Merthyr attack was halted by a decent Atkinson block.
We’d all been kinda wondering where Terry was but, in the 36th minute, after a rasping shot from distance flew just wide of McAdden’s left post those unmistakable Home Counties tones roaring “get out the box!” revealed Mr Brown was camped out the other side of the pitch giving us a stereo dugout effect.
As the half wore on it became apparent Merthyr were unable to take advantage of the wind and rain and in the 40th minute Smart, starved of that service he needs into areas where he can run onto the call so far, had the balk in the net but his effort was rightly ruled out for offside ball, albeit narrowly.
And in the 44th minute a slightly nervy end to the half as the otherwise excellent Bayliss fell over in the slippy conditions and conceded a corner which fortunately came to nothing.
No score at the interval and with the swirling wind and rain in our favour the second half hopes were on the rise.
In truth we dominated the second phase of play.
In the 49th minute a ball over the top found the industrious Wright who fired over the bar when tbh he might have done better and certainly should have worked the keeper.
Smart was yet again lively and tormented the Merthyr backline down both flanks in rapid succession.
In the 55th minute Collier, a bit better tonight, shot just over the bar after great work from the magnificent Kennedy.
In the 57th minute Wright shot at the keeper and two minutes later Smart did well to close down and legally charge down the keeper’s clearance but could have done better as the ball fell loose and didn’t get a shot away.
We were all over them by now and in the 61st minute Deadfield was ruled just offside after another good move.
The goal was surely coming and when it came it was worth the wait.
In the 67th minute, the feisty Smart dispossessed a defender, burst through on goal and then produced the most exquisite dinked lob over the advancing keeper to give us the lead.
It was the most sublime finish I can remember in 13 years down The Camrose and yet another illustration what a rare talent we have found in that young man.
We continued on top with Collier firing just wide from the right after winning the ball and in the 72nd minute Deadfield had a shot at the keeper.
But then we started to sit too deep and in the 76th minute Merthyr fired just wide after two important Bayliss clearances.
However, Merthyr was getting desperate now and, as they threw men forward, they left gaps in behind and Smart made them pay.
He latched onto the ball, advanced on goal and, despite the keeper’s best efforts to deny a goalscoring opportunity (he despairingly handled the ball outside the area) Smart charged passed him to put the ball into the net.
In the 80th minute Jack McKnight replaced the excellent Deadfield and, six minutes later, was set upon by the Merthyr number 2 after nutmegging him.
It has to be said Wright provided rather more protection for McKnight than the referee, who took no action.
We might have added more and in the 92nd minute Kennedy on the break dragged a shot wide on the left with both Wright and Smart free and screaming for the ball on the right.
But it mattered not and the man in black blew time ons famous victory.
A superb team performance and I am running out of superlatives about Brown.
No budget, double-digit enforced squad changes over the summer, the Club’s future under a cloud and still he delivers four straight wins, tonight against a proper decent side.
I’m torn between a statue of him and calling our next venue the Terry Brown Stadium – why not both?!
Match Report by Ian Davies
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