BASINGSTOKE Town overcame a battling Whitchurch United side to reach the semi-finals of the Hampshire Senior Cup at Longmeadow on Tuesday night.
Supporters travelling down the B3400 expecting Town to rout their Wessex League opponents will have gone away disappointed – but Whitchurch should take plenty of credit for their performance.
They were far from overawed by their higher league opponents and while Town probably should have won the game more comfortably, Whitchurch were always in contention and went close to forcing extra-time.
A Basingstoke side showing nine changes to the side that had started at Eastbourne Borough made a bright start on a heavy pitch.
Shooting down the slope, Simon Dunn almost found himself clean through in the first minute, while it took a decent save from Whitchurch goalkeeper Alex Thompson to keep out Robbie Matthews’ header soon after.
Matthews then fired wide but Town did take the lead on 15 minutes. A poor kick from Thompson was pounced on by Jordace Holder-Spooner and while he seemed to take too long, he was able to tee up Dunn. His shot was somehow blocked on the line but Holder-Spooner was on hand to volley home the rebound from close range.
Dunn and Whitchurch’s Isaac Sedu then hit shots from distance wide, but the hosts got more into the game as the half progressed.
A poor pass from Ross Adams gifted Nic Turpin a chance but he was unable to seriously test debutant Billy Granger in the Town goal. However, the Whitchurch striker made no mistake on 35 minutes.
A simple ball over the top caught the Town defence square and when Granger hesitated in coming out, Turpin nipped in to lob him, the ’keeper getting a hand to the ball but failing to prevent it finding the net.
The scores remained level at the break but, with the wind behind them, Town dominated the early stages of the second half.
Holder-Spooner smashed a shot wide from 10 yards before Kezie Ibe restored their lead on 53 minutes, bundling his way through several challenges before firing home, with Whitchurch’s appeals for handball waved away.
Louie Soares tested Thompson with a shot from distance but Whitchurch substitute Shane Lock was a threat, flashing an angled shot across the face of goal.
With the hosts tiring, Town created numerous chances in the final 10 minutes. Thompson had to palm Robbie Rice’s cross over the bar after it got caught in the wind and Soares fired narrowly over, while the home ’keeper pulled off great saves to deny Ibe and Soares as they ran through.
They were almost made to pay for these missed chances in injury-time at the end of the match as Tom Lockyer’s cross-shot found Lock unmarked 10 yards out, but the striker was unable to direct his shot on target.
The final chance fell to Holder-Spooner – but he was again denied by Thompson as Town were made to settle for a one-goal victory.
The win means that Town are just 90 minutes away from a place in the final, which will be played at Portsmouth's Fratton Park.
They will face Havant and Waterlooville, Gosport Borough or AFC Portchester in the semi-finals. The draw is to take place on Saturday evening - and manager Jason Bristow has his eye on the trophy.
“It's a competition that we want to go and win and we are one game away from playing at Fratton Park,” the Town boss said. “It was job done for us on Tuesday. We should have scored more goals but fair play to Whitchurch because they played well and were a bit unlucky at the end.”
Whitchurch manager Jim Macey added: “I'm pleased that we have got this far in the competition. We gave them a good game and I hope that they go on and win the competition.
“I thought we competed well and we were always in the game. We had to hold on a bit at times but we could have nicked another goal at the end and forced extra-time.”
Whitchurch United: Thompson, Angell, Pemberton, Brown, Pearson, Tourey, Hassell, Sedu, Turpin, Harris (sub Lock 54min), Walker (sub Lockyer 70min). Subs (not used): Asker, Macey, Pickering.
Basingstoke Town: Granger, Rice, Jenkinson (sub Green 38min), Barrett, Adams, Ray, Daly (sub Soares 45min), Dunn, Matthews, Ibe, Holder-Spooner. Subs (not used): Maylan, Debattista, Smart.
Whitchurch’s trip to Brockenhurst was postponed last weekend but they are due to return to Wessex League action with a home game against Bemberton Heath on Saturday. They then travel to Stockbridge in the semi-finals of the North Hampshire Senior Cup next Tuesday.