Southern Premier League
Basingstoke Town 3 – 1 Hereford Utd Saturday 17th March 2018 Att 704
In this life, there’s always someone bigger then you, but they are not always better – or smarter – than you.
On a freezing cold and snowy March Saturday afternoon here at The Camrose, rendered even more surreal by that feeling your home is being taken over that the unfamiliarity of segregation and a substantial away support brings, Basingstoke Town delivered a virtuoso performance of defensive and counter attacking football to lay low the mighty Hereford and arrest their march towards the title with an ultimately thoroughly-deserved 3-1 victory.
The architect of this win was Manager Terry Brown (and Assistant Jason Bristow) and this 90-minute piece of tactical genius had its genesis in a starting line-up of: Colm McAdden in goal, Tim Wohlfiel right back, Guri Demuria and Shane Hollamby centre backs, Dan Bayliss left back, a midfield of Michael Atkinson, Dan Collier, Charlie Kennedy and George Bennett with Sam Argent and Callum Bunting up top.
The best defensive displays have something tangible to defend as their foundation and in the very first minute we had it.
A neat little Bunting pass from a ball over the top, Argent ghosts in behind and a calm finish found the roof of the net to give us that vital early lead.
Let’s make no bones about what happened thereafter – we set out to defend that lead for 89 minutes if needs be, while looking to counter when we could.
But Hereford had started slowly and it wasn’t until the ninth minute that they showed anything, a left-footed shot well over the bar as they cut in from the right.
But with the exception of Argent and Bunting we were dropping deep and in the 14th minute Hereford won the first of numerous corners.
That was dealt with but, three minutes later, the visitors won no fewer than four more in quick succession and from the last one the ball was cleared off the line by Bunting.
In the 22nd minute Wohlfiel went down injured, he was struggling thereafter and was soon replaced by Tom Leggett.
Hereford were now starting to pile on the pressure.
In the 27th minute they had a header go wide from another corner.
Two minutes after that they skied an effort over the bar.
In the 33rd minute yet another corner.
But we were defending stoically and Hereford were lacking cutting edge.
Chances to break were scarce, though, and in the 39th minute Bennett could have released Bunting, but his pass was poor.
Two minutes before half time a deflected shot from outside the area gave the visitors yet another corner, but we managed to see out our lead to half time.
Three minutes into the second period of play and Argent and their keeper collided.
Argent seemed to be struggling a bit after that.
But we were looking a bit more dangerous on the counter now and in the 50th minute we won a corner from which Hollamby picked up a knock in a challenge.
Then, in the 59th minute, Argent picked up the ball on the break, but though he drove forward his final shot drifted tamely wide.
Hereford were soon back on top – two more corners on the hour.
Then in the 62nd minute the equaliser they had probably been coming materialised as a cross came in from the right and a header looped over McAdden and into the net.
Bizarrely, it made little difference to the flow of the game.
Though at home, we were hanging on at 1-0 from the first minute and now we were hanging on at 1-1.
But then Brown made two substitutions that changed the game.
In the 65th minute Jack McKnight replaced the injured Kennedy.
And two minutes later Sam Smart came on for Argent.
Within a minute Smart had a penalty shout after getting loose on the right and going to ground.
Nothing doing there, but three minutes later he cut in from the left and a vicious dipping effort from distance was tipped over the bar.
In came the Bennett in-swinger, Hollamby gets to the ball first, it appears to be cleared from off the line, but then the sight of the linesman flagging furiously indicated that the ball had crossed the line and the exultant Hollamby and Bennett were suddenly in rapturous celebration.
Hereford poured forward to try to get the game back.
In the 74th minute they won their umpteenth corner which was cleared then they shot over the bar.
Two minutes later Smart intercepted a clearance and bought us time winning a free kick.
In the 78th minute in comes another cross but the header is straight at McAdden.
And we were still dangerous on the counter and a minute later Bennett fired over the bar from a Smart lay off.
End-to-end stuff nor as McAdden parried an effort wide from distance for a corner,
That was cleared but then a shot thankfully straight at McAdden.
We then had a two-minute spell forcing Hereford back until the 84th minute when they broke, crossed and had yet another header over the bar.
But Hereford were getting very stretched now and in the 89th minute they were made to pay.
We broke, Bunting picked up the ball around the halfway line, then delivered the perfect diagonal ball to release Smart on the right.
The young forward burst through before delivering ruthless low finish across the Hereford keeper and into the far corner for 3-1. Celebrating in front of the Hereford fans may not have been the wisest move of the day, but the fact Sam Smart was not due to play at all today, made his performance even more better.
Game….over – thank you and good night.
Hereford for all their possession were beat, they knew it there pissed off fans knew it, and they started to disperse on their long journey home.
Undone by an opportunistic predatory early goal, a superb defensive rear guard, and some ruthless counter attacking.
It was a triumph for Brown and for his troops who deployed his tactics brilliantly on a day which was a triumph for the Club off the pitch too.
Apart from one or two minor incidents, today’s game went off without any issues. Segregation was clearly needed and worked well.
While the lads were relieving Hereford of 3pts on the pitch, in the Clubhouse before the game the bar staff were relieving the Hereford fans of their football weekend spending money too.
For those Basingstoke fans who took the time to come and support your team, then I think you saw a Stoke team play above itself and deserve the 3pts today.
Still tenth but now won 16 and lost 14. However, it has since been confirmed that striker Sam Argent has had successful surgery after a double jaw-break received in the game.
Match report by Ian Davies with additional comments by Martin French.