IT WAS a wet and windy afternoon for Basingstoke Town men’s long-awaited first home match in the town since July 2019 - but that wasn’t going to dampen the spirits of the fans overjoyed to be back.

After receiving the go-ahead for play at the Winklebury complex last week, the community club set about ensuring everything was in place for Saturday’s home game against table-toppers AFC Totton.

As the dragons warmed up, 400 fans filtered in - a sold-out stadium under current coronavirus guidelines.

Among the lucky ticket-holders were a group of Basingstoke postal workers, who were more than happy to brave the weather to support their home side.

“Very excited to be back. It’s good to have football back in the town,” said one.

Asked if he hoped the Dragons could secure all three points, he added: “Not hoping, we are going to win!”

Also in the queue was nine-year-old Harry Nash and dad, Nick, who hadn’t been able to get to many matches when the team were based in Winchester.

“It is just so much easier when it's ten minutes away. It will be nice to have a proper home game - but a bit of a shame about the weather,” said Nick.

“The team is flying high at the moment so I think it will be a good watch.”

Player Scott Armsworth had his fan base at the ready. Mum Sara told the Gazette she was “really excited” to support her son at home, and was “pretty confident” of a win.

“For us it's much easier to be here now,” she said.

Speaking to the Gazette before the match, chairman of the community club, Terry Brown said: “I’m excited to be coming back and mostly excited looking at our fans coming in and seeing how involved they are and how much they’ve done to get us back here.

“It’s small things like we’re able to offer local companies the opportunity to come down, show them what we’re about and what we’re trying to achieve. The link with our fans is obviously very solid, but we need that link with companies and workers too.

“Kevin has done a tremendous amount of work to get us back here. It’s not been easy, like banging your head against a brick wall at times, but for us to be celebrating being back here, it’s a fantastic day for the club.”

Vice-Chairman Kevin White added: “What struck me as I walked round was how many people that couldn’t make it down to Winchester have made it today, which is excellent because it means we’re attracting all the people back who have supported the club for a long time, as well as some new people from around Winklebury. It’s absolutely brilliant.

“When you’re back in the town, that’s when you can build a proper community aspect. The plan’s Terry has and what we’re going to do as a club, they’re absolutely brilliant, and you need to be home to do it.

“It just goes to show what it means to the community around here and now we’re in Basingstoke its just going to turbo-charge that, so thank you to everybody who has supported us - we’re really moving forward.”

Speaking about the match ahead, Kevin said: “Our boys, I’m sure, will work their hearts out and the supporters will be the twelfth man on the pitch, like they always are.”

The is drawing up plans for a second phase and wants to work with the council and local community to grow and develop.

“Through the conjugate of football, we really want to do a lot of positive things. This town needs a decent football club and that’s the aim, that’s what all the plans are driving towards,” said Kevin.

The first half of the match saw AFC Totton score two, with Basingstoke’s only goal disallowed due to offside. But fans were nevertheless in high spirits at half-time.

Season ticket holder Nigel Kyte said: “Above all else it's nice to be back in the town. I know it's not the stadium everyone wants, but we can fight for justice being back here.”

Talking about the first half of play, Nigel added: “I just spoke to the security guards and asked them to remove someone who was disrupting my enjoyment of the game - the ref!”

He was at the match with parents Christine and John, who live in Winklebury and were pleased with the new location - despite attending every Winchester home match in the last year.

John said: “It’s not the Camrose, but it’s not a bad little ground.”

Also happy to be back was superfan Archie Pilbeam, who won over the town’s hearts earlier this year when he featured in the Gazette with his letter to the council - pleading with them to save the Camrose ground.

Dad, Richard, said: “Rafi has six month to put in a re-application I believe - let’s hope the reasons it was dismissed are still strong enough to mean we get a like-for-like ground.”

Goals from Wilson and Cook in the second half made for a more exciting watch for fans, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough as AFC Totton also scored another, leading to a final score of 2-3.

With the torrential rain seemingly summing up the disappointment, fans rushed to seek shelter. But there was resounding agreement that, whatever the scoreboard said, it was an amazing feeling to be back in Basingstoke

Richard Pilbeam said: “A loss won’t put us off!”

The team will face Mangotsfield next, on Tuesday evening at Winklebury.