A MAN-OF-THE-MATCH performance from Bath City goalkeeper Jason Mellor and the frame of the goal denied Basingstoke Town all three points at the Camrose on Saturday.
The hosts created plenty of opportunities to win the match, especially in the second half, but they could not find a way past Mellor, who was in fine form, making a string of excellent saves.
Substitute Kezie Ibe was the only man to beat the Bath custodian, only to be denied by first the crossbar and then the post as an entertaining game ended without a goal.
Town were without suspended duo Adam Green and David Ray, while Simon Dunn remained on the sidelines with a dead leg. Andrew Jenkinson filled in at left-back, while loan players Matt Partridge and Ben Wright were both in the starting 11.
The first half got off to a scrappy start, with neither side able to get on top. Town went close when Wright blocked a clearance and ran through, but Manny Williams was just unable to get on the end of his low cross.
Williams then turned provider, playing Shaun McAuley through, but Mellor produced his first save of the match to keep out the midfielder’s powerful drive.
Bath then created their first real opportunity as former Town man Pratt cut in from the right and pulled the ball back for Ross Stearn. It took a decent save from Basingstoke goalkeeper Louis Wells to push Stearn’s effort around the post, while the midfielder took a knock in the process of shooting and had to be replaced.
The visitors went even closer eight minutes before the break, Andy Watkins hitting the crossbar. When right-back Robbie Rice was dispossessed raiding forward, nobody fell back to cover and Watkins found himself in space on the left side of the area.
He fired in a powerful angled drive that had Wells beaten at his near post but smacked against the underside of the crossbar.
The same player then forced a save out of Wells, but his effort from a narrow angle was easy for the Town goalkeeper to stop, though the hosts may have been in trouble had there been any supporting players.
Wright had the final effort of the half, heading Rice’s cross straight at Mellor as the teams went into half-time level.
Town were forced into a change early in the second half, Wright picking up an ankle injury that makes him a major doubt for tomorrow’s visit of Whitehawk, with Ibe replacing him.
Bath enjoyed their best spell of the match in the early stages of the second half but were unable to beat Wells. Pratt headed wide when Wells missed his punch from a corner, while the goalkeeper did really well to keep out Aaron Brown’s free-kick, pushing it wide via the face of the post.
However, as the game went on, Town began to look more and more dangerous. Williams missed a big chance, shooting wide when the ball broke to him 10 yards out.
Mellor then took centre stage, twice denying McAuley, the first following an excellent scooped pass from Rice, and also showing excellent reactions to push Neil Barrett’s header from Partridge’s cross over the bar.
Town continued to push and Ibe was desperately unlucky not to bag the winner, hitting the frame of the goal twice in the last 10 minutes.
His first effort would have been goal of the season had it been a couple of inches lower, the striker showing great skill to lift the ball over a defender on the edge of the area before firing in a shot that rattled the crossbar.
Then, in added time, he saw his shot from the edge of the area come back off the inside of the post, while McAuley fired inches past the post with a fine shot seconds later.
The draw saw Town move up to 11th in the Conference South table, five points outside the play-off places, ahead of tomorrow night’s game against Whitehawk (kick-off 7.45pm).
Click here to see a post-match interview with Basingstoke manager Jason Bristow and visit basingstokegazette.co.uk/sport for live updates from the Camrose tomorrow night.
Basingstoke Town: Wells, Rice, Jenkinson, Barrett, Gasson, Adams, Daly (sub Holder-Spooner 72min), McAuley, Wright (sub Ibe 49min), Williams, Partridge. Subs (not used): Smart, Matthews, Soares.
Bath City: Mellor, Bowman, Brown, Gallinagh, Burnell, Simpson, Stearn (sub Keats 24min), Connolly, Pratt (sub Jarvis 87min), Watkins, Adelsbury (sub Allen 83min). Subs (not used): Rollo.