Basingstoke made it four wins on the bounce by overcoming a resilient Ashford Town side as Stefan Brown’s fifth goal in as many games secured a 1-0 win at Winklebury.

Injury delayed Brown’s start to the season, but his performances are showing why he was considered such a key signing back in summer with Saturday bringing up his eighth goal in 13 games.

The run of victories has been timely and with other playoff chasing teams dropping points in recent weeks, ‘Stoke are firmly in the mix as the season enters its final third with a game in hand on rivals offering the opportunity to move into second place. Before that though comes a run of consecutive matches against the sides currently occupying the top three spots which makes the recent winning run all the more important.

Basingstoke weren’t at the top of their game against the Tangerines but were still the better side, even if they were made to wait for the game’s only goal. There were few chances, Conor Lynch and Simon Dunn getting in each other’s way early on as the first went begging while Ben Cook had a low strike deflected wide. Brad Wilson forced the first save out of visiting keeper Alfie McNally with a free kick that looked destined for the top corner. Ashford had lost top scorer Aaron McLeish-White in the week leading up to the game and struggled to threaten the ‘Stoke goal, their best chances falling to Reece Deakin and Ethan Hellyer either side of half time, but both failed to hit the target.

It remained 0-0 until the final ten minutes when 16-year-old substitute Brody Peart seized upon a cross fumbled by McNally. With an open goal beckoning, Ashford skipper Sam Humphreys hauled Peart down and was given his marching orders as the referee pointed to the spot. Brown’s low kick was saved initially but he was first to the rebound and converted from close range. From there, ‘Stoke saw out the remaining minutes comfortably and now look ahead to next weekend and a crunch clash at fellow high-flyers Chertsey.