BASINGSTOKE Town’s Conference South play-off hopes are all but over following a limp defeat to Hampshire Senior Cup final opponents Havant and Waterlooville at the Camrose on Saturday.
Jason Bristow’s men have now gone almost four games without scoring a goal and sit 14th in the table, 12 points outside the top five with just 10 games to go.
In truth, they rarely looked like finding the net on Saturday, only seriously troubling the visiting goalkeeper on two occasions.
Havant fared little better, with Louis Wells rarely tested, but they took their one clear chance, Sahr Kabba making the most of some poor defending to score the only goal of the game on 19 minutes.
The hosts had the wind behind them and the sun in their backs during the first half and made a decent start.
Robbie Matthews volleyed straight at visiting goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel and Adam Green fired a low free-kick narrowly wide before Havant had their first chance, Aristide Bassele’s low curler forcing Wells into action.
Shaun McAuley had a great chance to put the hosts ahead after a clever touch put him in behind the Havant defence. Unfortunately, the finish didn’t match what had gone before, McAuley slicing wide.
Green fired narrowly over as Town’s bright start continued, but it was brought to an abrupt end on 19 minutes. Jay Gasson’s attempted pass into midfield was cut out, the ball was played over the top and Kabba was in behind. Wells was out quickly and got a hand to his shot, but the ball looped up in the air, dropping agonisingly over the line.
Having gone behind, Town allowed the visitors to take total control for a 10-minute spell. Kabba was denied a second by the feet of Wells, while Bassele shot into the side-netting.
They recovered their composure for Robbie Rice to fire wide from distance, while a clever free-kick had Holder-Spooner in behind, but his touch let him down.
The visitors went close once more when Town failed to deal with a corner, Ryan Woodford’s effort on the stretch deflected into the side-netting, while Louie Soares forced a sharp save out of Buchel with a good low shot from distance.
The second half began very slowly but Havant were inches away from doubling their lead on 56 minutes, Scott Jones curling a shot against the crossbar, while Wells then had to make a decent save to deny Kabba from distance.
Bignall came on to make his debut just before the hour and while he worked hard, he was starved of service as Town continued to struggle.
Fellow substitute Nathan Smart made more of an impact, catching a low shot from the edge of the area well but putting it too close to Buchel.
The hosts were able to build some pressure in the closing stages, but could not create a clear chance.
Matthews shot over the crossbar, McAuley was denied by a good challenge from Woodford and David Ray headed into the side-netting.
Gasson was thrown into the attack during the later stages and he went close when Neil Barrett’s touch set him up, but Havant made the block, while he nodded another opportunity wide.
Barrett had the last real chance. A clever touch from McAuley put him in behind but his touch allowed Buchel to get a glove to the ball and secure an important win for the visitors.
Basingstoke Town: Wells, Rice, Green, Jenkinson (sub Smart 63min), Gasson, Ray, Daly, McAuley, Holder-Spooner (sub Bignall 59min), Matthews (sub Barrett 76min), Soares. Subs (not used): Adams, Johnson-Schuster.
Havant and Waterlooville: Buchel, Newton, Cummings, Hutchinson, Woodford, Strugnell, Bassele (sub Ramsey 80min), Ryan, Jones (sub Ciardini 69min), Donnelly, Kabba (sub Paterson 80min). Subs (not used): Przespolewski, Monteiro.