BASINGSTOKE Town were outclassed by in-form Sutton United in front of a bumper crowd of more than 2,000 at Gander Green Lane on Saturday.
The hosts were out of sight by half-time, Damian Scannell and Gavin McCallum’s double leaving a tired-looking Basingstoke side with little chance of staging a comeback.
Town improved after the break but were unable to trouble the scoreboard, even after Dale Binns was shown his marching orders for a second soft yellow card. In fact, it was the hosts who got the only goal of the second period, substitute Dean Sinclair completing the scoring in the closing stages.
Basingstoke had been boosted by the return of Wes Daly and Manny Williams before kick-off, while Shaun McAuley was fit enough to take a place on the bench.
However, their hopes of securing what would have been a shock win suffered what proved to be a telling blow with less than five minutes on the clock.
Town switched off from a throw, allowing Scannell, who was impressive throughout, to link up with first Lee Sawyer and then McCallum, the second one-two giving the winger the chance to slot past Louis Wells from the left side of the area.
Roared on by the large crowd, Sutton went for blood. Jamie Taylor failed to make proper contact when given space on the edge of the area, while David Ray had to make an important challenge to deny the same player soon after.
Robbie Rice, who had a poor game all-round, was then perhaps fortunate not to be sent off after bringing down the pacy Taylor when he looked to be through on goal.
Taylor was causing problems with his pace and he went close again soon after, collecting a long ball, turning quickly and firing a shot just over the Town goal from distance.
However, the hosts did double the lead on 24 minutes. Binns’ deep cross found Scannell on the right side of the area and he had time to take a touch before squaring to give McCallum a tap-in.
Sutton were rampant, while Town were struggling to get anything going in an attacking sense. The hosts almost had a third when Scannell scampered through, Wells staying tall to block his attempted lob, while the same player went close twice more, shooting straight at the goalkeeper and seeing an attempted cross almost float in via a deflection off Rice.
Another Sutton goal was very much coming, and it duly arrived on 39 minutes. A mistake from Rice allowed Taylor to control a long ball forward and his pass across goal evaded Jay Gasson and found McCallum, giving him another simple finish.
Things could have got even worse before the break, but Gasson made a brave block to stop Binns getting a powerful shot on target.
Town manager Jason Bristow looked to redress the balance by making a double substitution at half-time, with McAuley and Matthews introduced.
McAuley had an immediate impact, having Town’s first shot of note from a tight angle, but in general, Sutton remained on top.
Scannell saw one shot deflected into the side-netting and then fizzed a volley just over the crossbar, while, at the other end, Louie Soares failed to get a shot away after a clever flick from Kezie Ibe.
Gasson had to make a crucial challenge to deny McCallum a clear chance to complete his hat-trick, but Town were handed something of a lifeline when Binns saw red after picking up a second soft booking on 64 minutes.
The visitors thought they had pulled one back when Ibe poked the ball home from Adam Green’s low centre, but the flag was up for offside.
In general, it was easy to forget that Sutton were a man light and they completed the scoring on 76 minutes, Sinclair heading McCallum’s cross beyond Wells.
Substitute Kane Haysman was denied by Nathan Smart’s excellent challenge as the hosts pressed for more goals, while Town could not take either of the two decent chances they created in the closing stages.
Matthews shot too close to Brown after a long throw, while Ibe found himself in behind following flicks from Matthews and Williams, but Brown was able to close down the angle and make the save.
The result leaves Town 12th in the Conference South table, nine points off the play-off places with just 12 games left to play.
Click here to watch a post-match video interview with Basingstoke Town manager Jason Bristow.
Video courtesy of SUFCTV/YouTube.
Sutton United: Brown, John, Binns, Spillane, Downer, Clough, Scannell (sub Shitta 71min), Sawyer, Dundas (sub Sinclair 55min), Taylor (sub Haysman 62min), McCallum. Subs (not used): Slabber, Lovelock.
Basingstoke Town: Wells, Rice (sub McAuley 45min), Green, Jenkinson (sub Matthews 45min), Gasson, Ray, Daly (sub Johnson-Schuster 86min), Smart, Ibe, Williams, Soares. Subs (not used): Adams, Debattista.