BASINGSTOKE Town’s hopes of recording back-to-back league wins for the first time since early November were ended as they went down by a single goal to Sutton United in freakish weather conditions at the Camrose on Saturday.
Jamie Taylor’s early goal proved to be the winner as a strong breeze got steadily stronger throughout the match. Things were almost farcical for a 15-minute spell in the second half, when Town were shooting into the wind, with several attempted clearances getting caught on the wind and almost ending up behind the players trying to get the ball away.
Basingstoke manager Jason Bristow kept faith with the starting 11 that had earned Town a 3-1 victory at Eastbourne Borough the previous week and his side had the advantage of the wind at their backs in the opening 45 minutes.
Town’s Louie Soares had the first shot of the game but it was Sutton who looked more likely in the early stages, Jay Gasson making a great block to deflect Taylor’s shot over the bar and prevent an almost certain goal.
The visitors took the lead after just 16 minutes as Damian Scannell’s cross from the left was only headed out as far as Taylor 10 yards from goal. A good turn gave him the space to arrow a shot into the roof of the net, giving Louis Wells no chance of making the save.
Town were unable to make the most of having the conditions in their favour throughout the half and Sutton looked dangerous on the break. Adam Green had to make a good clearance to cut out a low centre and Jamie Slabber’s touch let him down when he could have been in behind the home defence.
The hosts went close when Matt Partridge got in down the left. His angled drive could not be held by Gregory and while defender Charlie Clough was first to the loose ball, he nearly put through his own net, his clearance clearing the crossbar by inches.
They went even closer 10 minutes before the break. A foul on Soares gave Town a dangerous free-kick and Ben Wright’s shot clipped the crossbar on its way over.
Then it was David Ray’s turn to make a crucial challenge, denying Taylor when the striker looked to have a clear run on goal. Town went straight up the other end and had men over, but Soares’ pass was poor and the chance disappeared.
Half-time arrived with Town still behind and knowing that they would have to play into the wind after the break.
Sutton made much more use of the advantage provided to them by the conditions, penning Town back in the early stages. Craig Dundas’ low cross was somehow smuggled away, while Scannell fired just over before the wind really picked up.
Driving rain made conditions almost unplayable for both sides but Town somehow managed to fashion a chance during this spell, Shaun McAuley putting an angled shot over the crossbar after being played in down the right.
At the other end, Wells did brilliantly to react when Dundas’ low shot got caught on the breeze and gained height unexpectedly.
Conditions improved somewhat in the final 15 minutes and while Town pressed in search of an equaliser, they were unable to find a way through.
Wright’s back-post header from McAuley’s cross was kept out by Gregory, though it may have been heading fractionally wide.
Sutton continued to threaten, Lee Sawyer heading narrowly over from substitute Kane Haysman’s cross – but Town were again inches away from levelling the scores in the closing stages.
Manny Williams’ shot from the edge of the area was somehow touched onto the post by Gregory and you got the feeling that, once again, it wasn’t to be Town’s day.
Slabber fired a decent shot narrowly wide as Sutton looked to tie the game up, while it took a brave block to stop Simon Dunn getting a shot on target.
Town’s problems increased late on as Green was shown a second yellow card after appearing to pull Slabber back as he looked to chase a through-ball, and with 10 men, they were unable to create any more openings.
The result saw Basingstoke drop to 11th in the Conference South table – but they remain well in contention for a play-off place, just three points outside the top five.
Basingstoke Town: Wells, Smart (sub Rice 85min), Green, Partridge, Gasson, Ray, Daly (sub Dunn 73min), McAuley (sub Matthews 85min), Wright, Williams, Soares. Subs (not used): Barrett, Ibe.
Sutton United: Gregory, Wynter, Binns, Weston, Downer, Clough, Scannell, Dundas, Slabber, Taylor (sub Haysman 67min), Sawyer. Subs (not used): Sinclair, Shitta, John, Lovelock.