BASINGSTOKE Town maintained their unbeaten pre-season record by holding League Two outfit Newport County to a draw at the Soccer AM Stadium last night.
There may be two divisions between the sides in the football ladder, but that gap was indiscernible as Town put in another good performance.
They even had chances to snatch the win, with Liam Enver-Marum denied by a last-ditch block, Julian Owusu forcing a good save from Newport goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley and Sam Argent hitting the crossbar in the second half.
Basingstoke manager Jason Bristow made three changes to the side that had beaten Hungerford five days earlier. Jay Gasson returned from injury to replace Kieran Maylen in the centre of defence, triallist Ryan Scott anchored the midfield, with Andrew Jenkinson dropping to the bench, and Chris Flood was given a start in attack.
The hosts almost went ahead in the opening 60 seconds, Enver-Marum heading Manny Williams’ free-kick straight at Pidgeley, but they did grab the lead with just 10 minutes on the clock.
Nathan Smart’s forward run won a corner and when Newport failed to clear their lines, Gasson found the perfect pass to release Flood. He cut inside a defender before curling an excellent shot beyond Pidgeley and into the net.
The goal seemed to wake the visitors up, with Shaun Jeffers heading a corner over the crossbar, but the next really big chance also fell to Flood, the striker heading narrowly over from Tom Bird’s cross.
Newport pulled level on the half-hour, with Town punished for their one defensive lapse of the evening. Jeffers was allowed to run in behind the defence down the right channel and his cross found Rene Howe, whose weak shot was turned home from close range by Aaron O’Connor.
The Welsh side almost grabbed the lead less than a minute later, but Jan Klukowski shot too close to Simon Moore in the Town goal, while Hughes and O’Connor failed to hit the target with further chances before half-time.
O’Connor again failed to test Moore with another opportunity early in the second half, while the goalkeeper was fortunate when Klukowski’s effort from a narrow angle came back off the near post.
Town went up the other end and almost grabbed a second goal themselves, Darren Jones making an excellent goal-line clearance to deny Enver-Marum after quick feet had seen him beat a defender and Pidgeley.
Another chance fell to O’Connor just after the hour, but he failed to make the most of a free-header from Willmott’s cross.
Both sides made numerous substitutions over the course of the second half, and it was Basingstoke who ended the game on the front foot.
Good play from new signings Lloyd Macklin and Argent created a chance for Tom Bird, who dragged his angled drive wide of the far post, while the hosts had two excellent chances in stoppage time at the end of the game.
Owusu caught the Newport defence napping to run on to Argent’s flick and it took a decent save from Pidgeley to keep out his well-struck effort. The resulting corner fell to Argent, but he could only direct the ball against the angle of post and crossbar.
Newport manager Justin Edinburgh was clearly unimpressed with his side’s performance, giving them a very public dressing down on the pitch at the end of the match, but it was another good display from the hosts.
Simon Moore – 7 out of 10
No chance with the goal and not really tested much otherwise, but controlled his area well.
Nathan Smart – 7
A solid display from the dependable right-back.
Tom Bird – 7
Newport’s goal came from a move down his side, but the left-back had a good game otherwise, putting some teasing crosses into the area.
Ryan Scott – 7
Another no nonsense display from the holding midfielder, who never allowed Newport to exploit the space in front of the back four. Lacks Andrew Jenkinson’s range of passing but a better defensive option in front of the back four.
Jay Gasson – 7
Solid defensively and a great pass to set up the goal for Flood.
Robbie Rice – 8
Another outstanding performance at the heart of the defence. Really giving Bristow something to think about for when David Ray returns from injury.
Simon Dunn – 7
A tireless display from the all-action midfielder.
Shaun McAuley – 8
Kept Town ticking going forward.
Liam Enver-Marum – 8
Spent a good deal of time ploughing a lone furrow in attack but played the target-man role well. So nearly scored what would have been a fantastic goal.
Chris Flood – 8 (Gazette Star Man)
Scored a lovely goal and caused problems with his pace throughout the match. Also showed a willingness to track back and help defend.
Manny Williams – 8
Another intelligent display from the forward.
Andrew Jenkinson (for Scott 58min) – 6
Gave the ball away in bad areas on a couple of occasions.
Sam Argent (for Williams 67) – 7
Worked hard and caused problems. Should have won the game late on.
Lloyd Macklin (for Flood 67) – 7
Another strong and powerful performance from the pacy forward.
Julian Owusu (for Enver-Marum 67) – 7
Caused the Newport defence problems and unlucky to be denied a goal by a good save.
Kieran Maylen (for Smart 67) – 7
Solid display from the versatile defender.
Marcus Johnson-Schuster (for Rice 83) – 6
Didn’t really get time to have an impact on the game.
Newport County: Pidgeley, Jones, Yakubu (sub Anthony 85min), Chapman (sub Patten 72min), Howe, O'Connor (sub Zebroski 65min), Willmott, Jeffers, Hughes (sub Sandell 65min), Klukowski (sub Minshull 72min), Byrne. Subs (not used): Jackson, Feely, Jolley, Parker.