BASINGSTOKE Town provided a spirited performance to overcome Walton & Hersham, beating the Swans 1-2 at the Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub on Saturday.

The fixture has been full of drama and big storylines over the past couple of years, with 13 goals scored in the last three league meetings between the previous season’s top two Isthmian South Central sides.

Another big crowd was expected in Surrey, with a large contingent to be away support, and news broke days before that the match was to be segregated – a decision made by the owners of ‘The Hub’.

The game began quickly, and it was Walton who had the first chance, which fell to Stan Flaherty. John Gilbert kept a long ball in play before laying it back to former Basingstoke man Nana Owusu, who sent a left-footed cross into the box – which was headed over by Flaherty.

‘Stoke responded to the Swans’ early pressure, however, and took the lead 15 minutes in – through striker Liam Ferdinand. French midfielder Luis Le Paih latched onto Mitchal Gough’s loose pass at the back before playing a clever ball into Ferdinand, who got it out of his feet before smashing into the top-right corner.

The lead was short-lived, though, as Walton levelled just ten minutes later. Johl Powell was found down the right wing, and he played a low ball across the box which was tapped into an empty net by the unmarked Trae Cook.

Basingstoke then had another big chance, when Callum Winchcombe hit a long ball forward, which Ferdinand latched onto. The striker’s touch forced him wide down the left, but he drove towards the box – inventively poking the ball through Mitchal Gough’s legs – before laying it to substitute Dan Rowe, who couldn’t make contact from point-blank range.

A chaotic scramble in the box following a long throw-in was the closest Walton came to taking the lead in the remainder of the first half, but the ball was navigated out by Paul Hodges and the sides went into the break level at 1-1.

‘Stoke scored early in the second period, just as they had done in the first, with Michael Atkinson regaining the visitors’ lead. Alex Kelly took a heavy touch on the edge of the box, which allowed Dan Rowe to poke the ball forward to Atkinson. The midfielder’s first shot was batted away by Tyla Dickinson, but he fired the rebound across the ‘keeper into the bottom-left corner.

The remainder of the match consisted mostly of Walton possession, but they didn’t create many clear-cut chances with it. Stan Flaherty was one of many to see a long-range shot go wide of the target, whilst there were a few Swans supporters that thought John Gilbert had equalised with a late free-kick – which had instead dipped narrowly over.

Basingstoke goalkeeper Simon Grant also made a crucial save to deny Trae Cook a second of the match from point-blank range, before smothering the rebounded ball at the feet of substitute Eddie Simon.

The full-time whistle was blown shortly afterwards, to secure a third win in four league games for the ‘Stoke, in front of a crowd of 805 – Walton’s highest of the season so far.

Dan Brownlie’s side now have a short break before their next fixture – Poole Town away on Saturday, February 17.

Their hosts, on the other hand, have three games to play before Basingstoke come to town.