BASINGSTOKE Town supporters were left damp and disappointed after watching their side concede two late goals to lose away at local rivals Farnborough in heavy rain on Monday afternoon.
The visitors had enough chances to win the match several times over, but they were punished for failing to kill the game. Manny Williams’ first-half penalty looked like it might be enough to give them all three points, only for Farnborough to level in the 88th minute and grab a winner in injury-time.
Having dominated most of the game, Basingstoke were naive in the closing stages, throwing men forward in an attempt to tie up the game.
With two minutes remaining, left-back Tom Bird, who had a fine game up to that point, opted to race forward in support of an attack. When the move broke down, Farnborough exploited the space behind him, with all of the midfielders also committed.
Jay Gasson covered, but Town never recovered defensively and the ball was worked to Phil Page, who was afforded time to let fly with a low shot. Stuart Moore was unable to hold the ball as it zipped off the wet grass and Dan Bennett was first to react, levelling the scores from close range.
Worse was to follow in the opening minute of stoppage-time, as Town were caught short at the back again. Page was allowed to jink past a couple of challenges, leaving David Ray on the floor, before firing home from a narrow angle to ensure that Basingstoke went home empty-handed.
It was a shame because, for most of the game, while Town had not been at their best, they were still the better side, creating a host of chances.
Manager Jason Bristow made two changes to the side that had started Basingstoke’s third win in a row against Hayes and Yeading United two days earlier.
The visitors made an excellent start, creating three chances in the first 10 minutes. Soares should have found the net when left unmarked in the area, but he headed Shaun McAuley’s cross wide, while Liam Enver-Marum fired wide from the edge of the area and then put a more difficult chance over the crossbar.
However, they then allowed Farnborough to get a foothold in the game, with Page and Paul Rodgers threatening from left-wing crosses.
Enver-Marum will have been relieved to see the offside flag go up as he headed Chris Flood’s cross wide, while Farnborough were inches away from taking the lead when Matt Ball clipped the top of the crossbar.
Another chance fell to Enver-Marum on 27 minutes, but he fired wide from the edge of the area, while Flood then saw his volley flash across the face of goal.
Having got back on top, Town went ahead on 36 minutes, Williams finding the top corner from the penalty spot after the marauding Bird had been brought down by Ball.
That was the way it remained until half-time. Farnborough emerged for the second half with renewed purpose but were unable to make the most of a couple of defensive errors – and Town then enjoyed their best spell of the match.
Enver-Marum looked like he had scored when he met McAuley’s cross, but his header was kept out by a fantastic goal-line clearance from Rodgers.
The striker went close again soon after, beating the offside trap but seeing home goalkeeper Charlie Grainger touch his shot onto the crossbar.
The game then ebbed back to the home side, with Moore making a fantastic save to deny Ball one-on-one, and substitute Andrew Jenkinson blocking Page’s shot when he looked set to score.
The closing stages were very open, too much so from a Basingstoke point of view.
Play swung from end to end, but it was the visitors who had the better chances. Farnborough’s Bennett saw his shot deflected wide but Town substitute Lloyd Macklin had two excellent chances to put the result beyond doubt.
Good work from fellow sub Nicholas Bignall and Simon Dunn resulted in Macklin being played through, but a heavy touch saw the ball roll through to Grainger. The striker then attempted to curl another chance beyond the goalkeeper, but succeeded only in shooting straight at him.
The hosts didn’t give up and got their reward in the closing stages, helped by Town’s slightly cavalier attitude. It could have been even worse for the visitors in stoppage time, Page shooting into the side-netting from a narrow angle.
Stuart Moore – 6 out of 10
Generally solid, he made a fantastic save to deny Bennett. However, he may feel he could have done a little better with both Farnborough goals.
Nathan Smart – 6
Didn’t do much wrong, but failed to have a real impact on the game either.
Tom Bird – 7
Great run into the area to win the penalty. Marred an otherwise excellent performance by getting caught upfield for Farnborough’s first goal.
Louie Soares – 6
Energetic and hard-working, but he didn’t really hurt Farnborough and missed a really good chance early on.
Jay Gasson – 7
Another strong performance from the Town captain.
David Ray – 5
Two games in three days possibly a step too far for a player working his way back to fitness. Looked off the pace, was caught in possession a couple of times and made to look a little silly by Page for the second goal.
Simon Dunn – 6
A couple of bright moments but didn’t really look comfortable anchoring the midfield.
Shaun McAuley – 7
Took up some interesting positions and put in a couple of good crosses.
Liam Enver-Marum – 6
Created chances for himself and others, but he needs to take them in order to justify his low work-rate.
Chris Flood – 6
A rare quiet game. Worked as hard as ever, but didn’t have as much impact on the game as he would have liked.
Manny Williams – 7 (Gazette Star Man)
Linked the play as the most advanced midfielder in the first half, before taking up a more defensive role after the break. Excellent penalty makes him Town’s leading scorer.
Andrew Jenkinson (for McAuley 70min) – 6
Made an excellent block seconds after coming on but failed to protect the defence.
Lloyd Macklin (for Soares 77min) – 6
A threat, but he failed to make the most of two really good chances.
Nicholas Bignall (for Enver-Marum 77min) – 7
Put himself about and held the ball up excellently, bringing other players into the game.
Subs (not used): Rice, Argent.
Farnborough: Grainger, Rodgers, Tumwa, Fearn (sub Okenabarhie 60min), Siaw (sub Brice 45min), Ferrell, Webb (sub Taylor 76min), Ball, Page, Bennett, Treacher. Subs (not used): Pearse, McAvoy.