TOM Bird struck deep into injury-time to earn Basingstoke Town a vital point from their Hampshire derby against promotion rivals Gosport Borough on Saturday.

The hosts looked set to suffer a second consecutive defeat as the game ticked into the last of four minutes added time, Justin Bennett having put visiting Gosport ahead early in the second half.

However, there was time for one last attack – and Town made the most of it.

Nathan Smart’s pace took him beyond the Gosport defence and his low centre from the right wing took a deflection at the near post before rolling across the face of goal. With perfect timing, Bird arrived at the far post and while the angle was against him, the wide man managed to squeeze the ball in off the underside of the crossbar, sparking scenes of jubilation all around The Soccer AM Stadium.

A draw was the right result at the end of a tight game of few chances, and Bird’s goal could prove to be really important as Basingstoke look to maintain their promotion push.

Having lost at Eastbourne Borough a week earlier, it was vital that Jason Bristow’s men did not succumb to another defeat. They could have done with winning the game, but claiming a point in the way they did may have almost the same effect psychologically with two more vital home games looming this week.

It wasn’t their best performance, and Town will certainly hope to pass the ball a bit better when Weston-super-Mare visit tomorrow night (7.45pm), but the hosts showed great determination and character to keep going and claim a point.

With Simon Dunn, Jamie Brown and Jay Gasson all still sidelined by injury, Town boss Bristow made just one change to the side that had lost at Eastbourne, with Manny Williams replacing another injured player, Lloyd Macklin, in attack.

The game began at a high tempo, with both sides creating openings in the early minutes. Rob Dickie headed a corner over for the hosts, before Bennett failed to make the most of two half-chances at the other end and Manny Williams put a shot too close to Gosport ’keeper Nathan Ashmore.

After a fairly frantic first 10 minutes, the game settled down. Both sides were content to allow the opposition to have the ball inside their own half, getting men back into defensive positions.

The result was a bit of a stalemate, with neither side able to pass the ball well enough to break down the opposition’s massed ranks.

Some quick thinking from Williams and Bird almost earned Town the lead on 24 minutes, but Ashmore made a good save to keep out Bird’s well-struck shot after Williams had taken a quick corner to find him unmarked just inside the area.

The hosts also looked dangerous when they were able to move the ball quickly and get in behind Gosport’s high defensive line. Shaun McAuley almost broke through in this way and while he seemed to be impeded by Sam Pearce, no foul was forthcoming.

Gosport created the more dangerous openings during the second part of the opening period. David Ray made a good block to deny Bennett and Matt Paterson shot too close to Moore, while both strikers were unable to get on the end of Dan Wooden’s teasing ball in from a free-kick.

Bird, who was impressive throughout, had the final two efforts of the half from long range, but both were struck straight at Ashmore.

The second half was only four minutes old when Gosport grabbed the lead. Williams won the ball to set up a dangerous break, but the move broke down and Gosport countered, with Thomas Dunford threading a pass through for Bennett. The angle was acute, but Gosport’s record scorer made no mistake, slotting past Moore to put his side ahead.

Town almost found an instant response, but Bird’s excellent effort from a free-kick flew the wrong side of the post, and Gosport were able to get on the front foot as Basingstoke wobbled defensively.

James Harper made a good challenge to deny Mike Carter as the visitors broke dangerously, while Moore made a decent save to deny Paterson, who blasted another opportunity well over.

The visitors played some really good football at times, while Andrew Forbes’ cross nearly caught Moore out, the ’keeper just about getting to the ball as it looped towards the far post.

Town fought back, with the busy McAuley shooting wide of the near post and Chris Flood denied a tap-in by some good defending from Francesco Saez-Ferre.

The introduction of Liam Enver-Marum made a difference, giving Town a real focal point in attack. Good play from him gave Bird a chance, but the wide man shot over.

A confrontation between Williams and Gosport’s Dunford resulted in both players picking up yellow cards as the tension rose, but it looked like it would not be Town’s day.

Carter fired wide as the visitors continued to threaten on the break, with Bird also having to clear from inside his own six-yard box. Flood was unable to direct a difficult chance from a narrow angle on target as time began to run out, but Bird popped up at just the right time to put away his side’s only real clear-cut chance and rescue a point.

Click here to watch a post-match interview with Basingstoke Town manager Jason Bristow


Stuart Moore – 6 (out of 10)

Not really tested much. May feel he could have done more to keep out the Gosport goal.

Nathan Smart – 8

Another performance full of energy and endeavour. Got forward to create the goal with a clever low cross.

Tom Bird – 9 (Gazette Star Man)

A constant threat down the left flank, he had most of Town’s efforts on goal and created some of the others. Kept running until the very end, getting into the box and keeping his composure to fire home the equaliser.

Robbie Rice – 7

Another solid game from a player who never lets anybody down.

Rob Dickie – 7

Strong defensively and made a couple of decent forays forward.

David Ray – 7

Made more crucial tackles and blocks. Having a really good season.

James Harper – 7

Did a good job of mopping up trouble in front of the back three.

Shaun McAuley – 8

A really bright and energetic performance. Looked sharp throughout and popped up all over the pitch.

Manny Williams – 8

Sharp and lively when playing in attack, holding the ball up well. Looked even better when asked to move into midfield after the introduction of Enver-Marum, taking up great positions and making well-timed runs into the area.

Chris Flood – 6

A quiet game by his high standards. Worked hard but kept out of the game by Gosport’s imposing defence.

Louie Soares – 6

Another player who had a quiet game. Didn’t see enough of the ball to have his usual impact on proceedings.


Liam Enver-Marum (for Soares 68min) – 7

Made a difference when he came on, giving Town a real focal point in attack. Got the Gosport defenders on the back foot and created a few opportunities.

Subs (not used): Jenkinson, Cox, Case, Smalley

Gosport Borough: Ashmore, Forbes (sub Wilde 68min), Saez-Ferre, Carter, Poate, Pearce, Dunford, Smith, Paterson (sub Wort 88min), Bennett, Wooden 

Subs (not used): Ramsey, Muleba, Molyneaux

Attendance: 527