BASINGSTOKE Town’s up and down season took another turn for the worse as they were soundly beaten by struggling Whitehawk at the Camrose on Tuesday night.
A heavy pitch played its part as Town struggled to get their passing game going, but, worryingly, Whitehawk showed more desire to win the match, beating the hosts to every loose ball.
The second half was particularly poor, with the hosts struggling to string two passes together and finding them pinned back in their own half by a side that began the evening in the relegation zone.
Town manager Jason Bristow made three changes to the side that had drawn with Bath three days earlier. Ben Wright was unable to play due to an ankle injury and Manny Williams was dropped to the bench, with Kezie Ibe and Jordace Holder-Spooner partnered together in attack.
Elsewhere, left-back Adam Green returned after suspension, with Andrew Jenkinson moving into the centre of the park and Wes Daly missing out. He may not have had a great game against Bath, but Daly’s value to the team really shows when he is missing and his absence may have played a part in Town’s failure to pass the ball, with none of the chosen midfielders covering themselves in glory.
The game got off to a scrappy start, with Basingstoke not playing at a tempo high enough to worry a Whitehawk side content to defend deep and attack mainly on the break.
Town forged an early chance when Matt Partridge won the ball in midfield and played in Ibe, but goalkeeper Chris Winterton was out quickly to make an excellent tackle just outside the area. Ibe then turned provider, doing well down the left, but Shaun McAuley, who had a quiet game, was unable to provide the crucial touch.
Just when Town looked to be taking control, they were hit by a sucker-punch on 21 minutes. A free-kick in a dangerous area ended in disaster as Jake Robinson took advantage of an under-hit back-pass from Robbie Rice, running through and squaring for the impressive Danny Mills to tap in.
Things could have got worse for the hosts moments later, Partridge perhaps fortunate only to see yellow for a poor challenge that resulted in Whitehawk right-back Richard Rose being substituted.
The visitors could have had a second, Lee Hills firing over when well placed following another Robinson break from a Town set-piece, but instead Town levelled the match on 33 minutes.
Another terrible pass set up the goal as Whitehawk’s Tom Cadmore put Ibe in the clear when looking to find goalkeeper Winterton. The Town striker made no mistake, slotting home to make it 1-1.
The hosts then enjoyed their best spell of the match, with Green’s good run almost ending in a second goal for Ibe as Cadmore’s attempted clearance hit the Basingstoke striker and ricocheted over the crossbar.
Sadly, Town’s good spell was short lived and goalkeeper Louis Wells was soon back in action, denying Mills a second after a simple ball forward to the striker caused the hosts untold problems.
However, Basingstoke were inches away from snatching the lead in the final seconds of the half, Partridge’s excellent shot from 25 yards smacking against the underside of the crossbar.
That turned out to be a key moment in the game as Whitehawk dominated the second period to earn a fully-deserved victory.
They were on the front foot from the first whistle, while Town struggled to make the simplest passes.
Substitute Alex Parsons had their first real chance of the second half, smashing the ball into the side netting from Mills’ flick, but they took the lead on 65 minutes.
Rice gave away a free-kick in a central position 25 yards from goal and Tommy Fraser stepped up to lob the ball over the wall and into the top corner, giving Wells little chance of saving.
More chances followed, with Wells somehow saving from Mills after he had taken advantage of another defensive mistake and Parsons firing narrowly wide.
Substitute Louie Soares was a rare bright spark for Town and he tested Winterton after one good run, while he later put in a dangerous cross that the visiting defence just about dealt with.
However, in general, it was the visitors who looked far more dangerous. Fraser went close from another free-kick, his shot clipping the top of the crossbar, while it took a fine challenge from Rice to stop Sam Gargan running through on goal.
Town were finally put out of their misery in injury-time, substitute Alex Addai breaking from just inside his own half before sidefooting past Wells.
Click here to see a video of Town boss Jason Bristow giving the Gazette his post-match thoughts.
Basingstoke Town: Wells, Rice, Green, Barrett, Gasson, Adams, Jenkinson, McAuley, Ibe, Holder-Spooner (sub Williams 67min), Partridge (sub Soares 67min). Subs (not used): Daly, Smart, Ray.
Whitehawk: Winterton, Rose (sub Parsons 27min), Hills, Maher, Lawrence, Cadmore, Robinson (sub Addai 88min), Mills, Richens, Da Silva (sub Gargan 75min), Fraser. Subs (not used): Freeman.