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REPORT - Bishop's Stortford 5 Basingstoke Town 3
BASINGSTOKE Town suffered their fourth consecutive Conference South defeat in a strange game at a soggy Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday.
The visitors’ drought in front of goal finally came to an end but while they scored more goals than they had in their previous six outings put together, it was their defending that let them down.
However, finishing does remain a problem for Town, who would have been well clear in the opening 20 minutes had they been able to convert three really good chances.
Basingstoke manager Jason Bristow sprung a surprise by leaving captain Wes Daly on the bench, making just one enforced change to the team that had run league leaders Bromley close a week earlier, Robbie Rice replacing the ill Nathan Smart.
Despite being made to play into the wind during the first half, Town made a strong start and nearly grabbed a second-minute lead.
Adam Green crossed from the left and a defender slipped, allowing the ball through to Shaun McAuley, whose powerful shot was well saved by home goalkeeper Joe Wright.
Two more excellent chances followed in the opening 15 minutes. Manny Williams played Kezie Ibe through but the striker was unable to beat Wright one-on-one, while Williams then had a similar chance, the ball rolling agonisingly wide.
The game was very open and Stortford saw a strong penalty shout turned down when Reece Prestledge seemed to be pushed in the area, while McAuley forced another save out of Wright with a low shot from 25 yards.
Town were made to pay for their failures in front of goal 24 minutes in as the hosts grabbed the lead with their first real chance. A cross from the left was headed down by the impressive Cliff Akurang and Liam Enver-Marum took advantage of some hesitant defending to poke home from six yards.
Basingstoke had a decent chance to level when Williams played Holder-Spooner through but the pass sent the winger wide, making it easier for Wright to narrow the angle and make the save.
Louis Wells in the Town goal made his first save of the match soon after, keeping out Matt Johnson’s effort from the edge of the area.
However, he could do nothing to prevent Enver-Marum doubling the lead on 31 minutes. Neil Barrett gave the ball away in midfield and one pass had Akurang running at the Town back four.
He threaded a pass through to strike-partner Enver-Marum, who produced a fine finish from wide on the left side of the area, curling the ball over and around Wells into the far top corner.
That goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and Stortford could have been further ahead before half-time, Andre Costa firing narrowly wide after a simple ball from back to front caught out the entire Town defence.
The visitors needed the break and they made the perfect start to the second half, pulling a goal back just two minutes after the restart.
A cross from the left found Ibe, who managed to control the ball and force a good save out of Wright, but McAuley was on hand to volley home the rebound.
However, it took Stortford just five minutes to restore their two-goal cushion, Akurang forcing the ball home from close range after Wells had saved Johnson’s effort from a free-kick.
Five minutes later and Town had a lifeline again as Andrew Jenkinson’s attempted ball into the box got caught up in the wind and flew over a stranded Wright into the top corner.
The game then settled down, with Town enjoying plenty of possession but struggling to break the hosts down – and it was Stortford who scored next to spark a frantic final 10 minutes.
A free-kick conceded in the left-back area was the visitors’ downfall as Sean Francis got up to head home powerfully with nine minutes left.
Town managed to respond five minutes later, a combination of defender Ashley Miller and goalkeeper Wright conspiring to score an own-goal when Green’s corner got caught in the wind and headed towards the near post.
However, it mattered little as Stortford went straight up the other end and made it 5-3, Akurang heading home a cross from the left wing.
Town had a couple more chances late on, with McAuley firing over and Williams forcing Wright into another save, but the chances they really must be ruing came at the start of the game rather than the end of it.
Bishop’s Stortford: Wright, Miller, Herd (sub Fletcher 72min), Allen, Francis, McNaughton, Johnson, Costa (sub Edwards 75min), Enver-Marum (sub Fagbohum 79min), Akurang, Prestledge. Subs (not used): Adams, Baker.
Basingstoke Town: Wells, Rice, Green, Barrett, Gasson, Ray, Jenkinson, McAuley, Ibe (sub Matthews 77min), Williams, Holder-Spooner (sub Dunn 72min). Subs (not used): Daly, Adams, McDonnell.
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