BASINGSTOKE Town lost their opening league game of the season 1-0 to visiting Hemel Hempstead at The Soccer AM Stadium on Saturday.
This was largely thanks to an excellent performance from debut goalkeeper Jonathan Henly.
The Reading shot stopper signed as cover for the suspended Stuart Moore, made a number of crucial saves, but had no chance with a sweetly struck free-kick from Hemel captain Jordan Parkes.
The afternoon did not start well for the home side, as Nicholas Bignall, signed on Friday, was forced out of the starting XI due to injury, so Chris Flood came in.
Former Dragon Wes Daly was only on the bench for the visitors for the whole game.
A nervous start, saw the home side have the better chances and it looked promising when Liam Enver-Marum’s strong run saw him fire into the side netting.
As the first–half wore on, the tempo increased and a nice pass from Chris Flood saw Nathan Smart fire over.
The visitors then started to boss the game, with the impressive Parkes at the centre of things, and from a free-kick he won Daniel Talbot blasted over.
As the game headed towards half-time, Hemel had an excellent spell and Henly was forced into action to deny Kieran Murphy.
The home goalie then produced a brilliant double save, first to deny Ed Asafu-Adjaye with a shot down low and then he smothered the rebound effect from Ben Mackey.
As the game entered injury time at the end of the first-half, a sweet strike from Parkes from 25-yards out hit the net.
Any hopes that the Dragons would roar after the break, were soon dashed as Hemel’s Oliver Thorne headed over in the opening minute.
The visitors then should have made it 2-0, as Dennis Oli really should have hit the target, but headed wide from Asafu-Adjaye’s cross.
Hemel captain Parkes fired just wide and sub David Hutton tested Henly, as the home side still failed to carve out a chance.
The introduction of Julian Owusu and Lloyd Macklin finally seemed to give the home side some spring in their step.
Manny Williams moved to play up front and the striker forced Laurie Walker into a save with 15 minutes to go.
Soon after, Owusu won a free-kick and Tom Bird’s free-kick went just wide of the upright.
In the final minute, Basingstoke had their best move of the game as Owusu released Bird and his cross saw Macklin’s header saved by Walker.
Jonathan Henly – 8 out of 10 (Gazette Star Man)
Excellent debut and kept the score down to 1-0.
Nathan Smart – 6
Blasted an early chance over and never saw much of him after that.
Tom Bird - 6
Looked good going forward, but this left gaps on the flank.
Andrew Jenkinson – 6
Never looked comfortable and no surprise he was first to be replaced.
Jay Gasson – 7
Busy afternoon for the skipper led by example.
Rob Rice – 7
Had to be on his toes all game and worked hard.
Simon Dunn – 6
Unable to create anything in midfield.
Shaun McAuley – 6
tarted brightly then faded as Hemel took over running the centre of the park.
Liam Enver-Marum – 6
Had a good early chance, but then had no real service.
Chris Flood – 6
Never really got into the game.
Manny Williams – 6
Came into his own when moved upfront.
Louie Soares (for Jenkinson 57min) – 6
Tried to make things happen, but to no avail.
Julian Owusu (for Enver-Marum 73min) – 7
Put himself about which created a few chances.
Lloyd Macklin (for Flood 73 min) – 7
Added more spark to the attack.
Subs (not used): Ray, Argent.
Hemel Hempstead Town: Walker, Asafu-Adjaye, Connolly, Parkes, Murphy, Allen, Talbot, Thorne, Oli (sub Hawkins 65min), Mackey (sub Simmonds 86min), Toomey (sub Hutton 24min). Subs (not used): Daly, May.