BASINGSTOKE Town were unable to get anything out of their final home game of the season, going down to a narrow defeat against Concord Rangers last night.
Two years ago, nearly 1,700 people turned up to the Camrose on a Wednesday night to watch Town take on Dartford in the semi-finals of the Conference South play-offs. Fast forward to last night, and just 137 people were in attendance as Basingstoke brought the curtain down on a disappointing season in front of their home fans.
Jason Bristow’s men ended the season with a home record of eight wins, five draws and eight defeats, something that must improve if they are to challenge for honours next season.
They will finish no higher than 13th in the Conference South, even if they are able to take three points from their trip to Staines on Saturday, while defeat in Middlesex could result in them ending the season 17th.
The hosts actually played quite well last night, but it was an all-too-familiar story as they failed to turn possession, opportunity and chances into goals.
With Simon Dunn out due to illness and Adam Green struggling with an arm injury, Town were forced into a couple of changes, while Matt Partridge felt a problem in his groin during the warm-up, meaning a late alteration was required.
In the end, Town lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, but they made a very slow start, struggling to deal with Concord’s direct, physical threat.
Nobody was able to get on the end of Sam Collins’ low ball across goal, while the same player missed a great chance to open the scoring on seven minutes, heading straight at home goalkeeper Joe McDonnell when left totally unmarked.
Basingstoke improved as the half went on but Concord continued to look dangerous going forward, with Joe Gardner and Gary Oglive both denied by McDonnell.
Town’s only real chance of the half fell to Shaun McAuley on 33 minutes. It was a good one as well, the midfielder putting his low shot narrowly wide after finding some space in the area.
McDonnell was in action again before the first half came to a close, pushing Collins’ angled effort around the post to ensure the game remained goal-less at the break.
It turned out to be an extended half-time as one of the assistant referees was unable to continue due to injury. A call was put in to Old Basing resident and Conference level referee Colin Lymer, who hot-footed it down to the Camrose, but the restart was delayed by around 15 minutes.
Concord were the more threatening side in the early stages of the second period, with Oglive finding the side-netting and Tony Stokes putting a low ball across the face of goal.
Town really should have taken the lead on 57 minutes as McAuley played Nicholas Bignall through, but the striker fired wide of the near post with only goalkeeper Jamie Butler to beat.
Another good opportunity fell the home side’s way soon after, but Louie Soares’ ball in was cut out just before it reached Liam Enver-Marum, with McAuley unable to make the most of the loose ball.
The winning goal was scored on 71 minutes, following a strange decision from referee Steven Plane.
The ball seemed to strike Nathan Smart’s torso as he attempted to block a shot well inside the area. Plane decided he had handled but opted to award a free-kick just outside the area.
Neither side was happy with the decision but Town were given a reason to feel even more aggrieved as substitute Lewis Taafe stepped up to blast a low shot into the bottom corner with his first touch after coming on.
Basingstoke never really went close to levelling the game, and Concord would have won more comfortably had it not been for McDonnell, who made a fantastic save to keep out Gardner and another decent stop to deny Collins.
Click here to see a post-match video interview with Basingstoke Town manager Jason Bristow.
Basingstoke Town: McDonnell, Smart, Jenkinson, Soares, Gasson, Matthews, Daly, McAuley, Enver-Marum, Bignall, Williams. Subs (not used): Green, Adams, Partridge, Ibe, Johnson-Schuster.
Concord Rangers: Butler, Easterford, Glozier, Cowley, King, Goodacre, Cawley, Gardner, Oglive (sub Miles 90+2min), Collins, Stokes (sub Taafe 69min). Subs (not used): White, Njie, Bowles.