BASINGSTOKE Town’s terrible run of form continued as struggling Chelmsford City came from behind twice before scoring an injury-time winner at the Camrose last night.
A Christian Smith own-goal had Town ahead but the same player then levelled from the penalty spot. Liam Enver-Marum restored the home side’s lead in the second half, but Michael Cheek’s late double secured three precious points for the visitors.
In truth, Town deserved little more. They were unable to cope with Chelmsford’s direct approach in the first half and while they showed their class in a 15-minute spell after the break, they sat back after going 2-1 ahead, inviting pressure.
Louie Soares replaced Nicholas Bignall in the Basingstoke side as they reverted to a 4-4-2 formation and while he tested Chelmsford goalkeeper Carl Pentney from an early free-kick, Chelmsford soon took charge of the game.
Town were unable to deal with the old-school threat of target man Luke Callander and Cheek, his lightning-quick strike-partner, with some last-ditch challenges required to stop the visitors getting a clear chance.
Andrew Jenkinson zipped a low shot narrowly wide for Town but it was against the run of play that they took the lead on 10 minutes, Smith diverting Manny Williams’ low centre beyond his own goalkeeper.
Despite going ahead, Town continued to look shaky in defence and their lead lasted just four minutes. Wes Daly needlessly brought down Callander in the area and Smith made amends for his earlier error by slotting home from the penalty spot.
More chances followed for the visitors. Cheek really should have put them ahead when afforded a free-header at the far post, but headed wide, while Robbie Rice made an excellent challenge to deny Cheek another opportunity and Nathan Smart hacked Callander’s shot away from inside his own six-yard box.
Louis Wells then pulled off an excellent save to keep out Smith’s header, but Town improved in the closing stages of the half. A promising break was wasted when Williams failed to find Shaun McAuley with a pass, while Adam Green’s shot was well saved by Pentney, with Soares denied by a last-ditch challenge immediately afterwards.
The improvement continued in the early stages of the second half, with Basingstoke switching to a 4-3-3 formation.
McAuley was afforded a free role and took control of the game. His angled drive was tipped just past the post by Pentney, while Williams headed a good chance wide, before Enver-Marum restored the Town lead on 56 minutes.
Chelmsford defender Harry Hickford completely missed his kick on the edge of the area and the striker finished clinically.
Sadly, having taken the lead, Town failed to maintain the intensity that had got them ahead, allowing Chelmsford to get back on the front foot.
Cheek fired narrowly wide, while Nicky Nicolau’s attempted cross hit the post, with both Callander and Mark Hughes failing to turn the rebound in. Full-back Justin Miller was next to have a big chance, but he put his header wide from a corner.
Enver-Marum nearly extended the lead during a rare Town attack, his lob over Pentney being cleared off the line by Smith, but Chelmsford got the equaliser they deserved with 15 minutes to go.
Leon Redwood was allowed to cross from the left and Cheek rose unmarked to nod home, giving Wells no chance.
Town looked to hit back, with Williams just failing to get on the end of a low ball across goal, while Matthew Lock almost caught Wells off his line with an audacious effort from halfway, but the ball dropped just wide.
Daly fired wide from the edge of the area, while Williams was denied what looked to be a clear penalty in the closing stages, but it was the visitors who got the winner in injury-time.
Enver-Marum’s stray pass gifted possession to Hughes on halfway and the visitors broke. Hughes played in substitute Joe Ward and his low cross found Cheek unmarked to sweep the ball home at the far post.
Basingstoke Town: Wells, Smart, Green, Jenkinson, Gasson, Rice, Daly, McAuley, Enver-Marum, Williams, Soares. Subs (not used): Adams, Holder-Spooner, Barrett, Johnson-Schuster, Ibe.
Chelmsford City: Pentney, Miller, Redwood, Lock, Hickford, Smith, Long (sub St Aimie 63min), Hughes, Callander (sub Ward 82min), Cheek, Nicolau (sub Davis 70min). Subs (not used): Greene, Patterson.