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REPORT - Basingstoke Town 2-2 Maidenhead United
MAIDENHEAD United recovered from two goals down to deny Basingstoke Town what would have been an important three points.
Goals at the start of each half from Jordace Holder-Spooner and Andrew Jenkinson had Town in control at the Camrose on Saturday, only for the visitors to hit back and claim what could be a vital point in their battle against the drop.
Town, who remain 10th in the Conference South table, actually closed the gap between themselves and the play-off places to eight points, but the two points dropped could turn out to be crucial in the final reckoning.
The hosts, who were without Shaun McAuley due to sore ribs, made a good start on a heavy pitch and could have been in front with less than a minute on the clock.
The hosts were well on top, with Andrew Jenkinson testing Maidenhead goalkeeper Elvijs Putnins after coming in from the right, before Holder-Spooner put them ahead with just 11 minutes gone.
Visiting defender Leon Solomon conceded a needless free-kick, from which Adam Green picked out Jay Gasson. His header towards goal lacked power but gave Holder-Spooner the opportunity to swivel and fire into the roof of the net from close range.
The setback rocked the strugglers, who looked there for the taking over the next 10 minutes - but Town could not make the most of this.
Green and Jenkinson both shot wide, while Holder-Spooner was unable to get enough on his effort to really test Putnins.
Maidenhead were able to regain their composure and even looked the more likely scorers for the final 25 minutes of the half. Harry Pritchard flashed a shot narrowly wide, while Louis Wells in the home goal did brilliantly to nick the ball away from Harry Grant with his fingertips, knowing that a penalty and a red card would probably been the sanction had he got it wrong.
However, the final opportunity of the first half went to Town, Soares firing over after winning a free-kick just outside the area.
The hosts will have been relieved to hear the half-time whistle, having let Maidenhead back into the game, but they wasted no time in doubling their lead after the break.
The second period was less than three minutes old when Soares cross from the right found Jenkinson at the back post. A defender had got a flick on the ball in, making it awkward, but the young midfielder managed to loop a header towards goal.
However, Putnins may feel he should have kept it out, failing to get a strong enough hand to the ball and seeing it drop agonisingly over the line.
Having taken a two-goal lead, the hosts seemed to relax, allowing Maidenhead to get on the front foot.
Almost immediately, Wells was forced to save with his feet to keep out Tyrell Miller-Rodney's near-post effort, and the visitors got themselves back into the game on 53 minutes.
A good move down the right resulted in the ball being squared for Pritchard to fire home from just outside the six-yard box, and Town no longer had the comfort of a two-goal cushion.
Manny Williams could have restored it, but he was only able to fire into the side-netting after a fabulous touch took the last Maidenhead defender out of the game.
Then it was the visitors' turn to go close, with Wells keeping out Danny Green's angled strike and making an even better save to prevent Matt Ruby equalising with a header from the resulting corner.
An opportunity followed almost immediately at the other end, but the hosts were unable to make the most of a dangerous break, Jenkinson and Holder-Spooner trying to be too clever.
They were made to pay with 12 minutes to go. Wells was unable to hold Pritchard's shot from distance and substitute Jacob Erskine was first to the loose ball, with the goalkeeper unable to recover in time to keep his effort out.
Town searched for a winning goal in the closing stages, with Neil Barrett firing just over from distance. However, the big chance fell to Williams following good play from Kezie Ibe, but the striker failed to get his shot away and was crowded out.
Things could have got even worse in stoppage time, Pritchard's curling effort clipping the head of David Ray and spinning narrowly wide as Basingstoke were forced to settle for a point.
Town are back in action tomorrow night, travelling to Gosport Borough for a Hampshire Senior Cup semi-final. Visit basingstokegazette.co.uk/sport for live text coverage from the game.
Basingstoke Town: Wells, Smart, Green, Dunn, Gasson, Ray, Daly, Jenkinson (sub Barrett 65min), Holder-Spooner (sub Ibe 71min), Williams, Soares (sub Matthews 82min). Subs (not used): Rice, Adams.
Maidenhead United: Putnins, Behzadi (sub Hippolyte 77min), Solomon, Brown, Nisbet, Ruby, Green, Miller-Rodney, Pacquette (sub Erskine 45min), Grant (sub Ujah 80min), Pritchard. Subs (not used): Azeez, Nlate.
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