BASINGSTOKE Town's wait for a first win of the season goes on – but they passed a test of character at Vauxhall Road on Saturday.

The game looked set to end in a 1-1 draw, Chris Flood's first-half header cancelling out Matty Harriott's early strike.

However, with just five minutes left to play, Town midfielder James Harper was adjudged to have brought Hemel substitute Willy Gnahore down in the area.

It was an incredibly harsh decision. Not only did Harper appear to get a toe to the ball, but Gnahore seemed to simply slip as he tried to turn just before the by-line.

However, referee Elliott Kaye saw things differently, pointing to the penalty spot, from where Jamie Slabber sent Town goalkeeper Aaron Howe the wrong way to put Hemel in front.

Basingstoke are on a terrible run, having failed to win any of their opening seven games, with their last two ending in defeat. Heads could easily have dropped, but instead they managed to find a response.

They needed a bit of help from the referee. A free-kick into the area was aimed towards Jay Gasson and when Terrell Forbes put his arms around the Town man, Kaye needed no further excuse to award a second penalty in the space of three minutes.

According to the letter of the law, it was probably a foul, but several identical offences had gone unpunished throughout the match. Tellingly, there was nothing in the way of an appeal from the Town players, making it seem that the man in the middle was levelling things up.

Whether it should have been a penalty or not, Liam Enver-Marum made no mistake from the spot, firing high into the corner of the net to score his first goal of the season and earn Town a point.

Basingstoke's winless start to the season extends to eight games as a result, while they are third-bottom of the National League South, with only goal difference keeping them off the foot of the table.

However, considering the circumstances, it was a good point – one that could prove to be a turning point in the season.

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Town boss Jason Bristow made two changes to the side that had lost to Gosport Borough five days earlier. Robbie Rice replaced the departed Matt Partridge in the back three and striker Liam Enver-Marum came in for midfielder Simon Dunn, with Flood playing just behind the front two.

They made a bright start, with Sam Akinde holding the ball up well and winning a free-kick that Louie Soares fired in at goal, forcing home goalkeeper Jamie Butler to tip over the crossbar.

Tom Bird's resulting corner also caused problems, but Akinde could only head wide.

The game then swung Hemel's way and while Gasson made a good block to deny Ben Herd, the resulting corner was only cleared as far as Matty Harriott on the edge of the area. The midfielder still had plenty to do, but an excellent volley found the back of the net, giving Aaron Howe no chance.

Basingstoke looked to respond, with Enver-Marum doing well down the right but seeing his low centre cut out before it reached Nathan Smart.

Akinde really should have levelled with 18 minutes on the clock, when a mistake in the Hemel defence gave him a clear run at goal. He looked to take the ball around home goalkeeper Jamie Butler, but was denied when an early shot would have caught the home custodian out of position.

Town were enjoying plenty of possession, but Hemel looked dangerous on the break and almost added a second on 25 minutes, Oliver Hawkins heading over from Slabber's cross.

The dangerous Jamal Lowe almost created a chance as well, but his low centre flashed across goal and Town levelled 10 minutes before the break.

Bird won a free-kick down the left and Soares' excellent ball was headed home at the far post by Flood, who had lost his marker.

Lowe had another opportunity soon after, but having done well on the edge of the area, his weak shot was easy for Howe to deal with and the sides went in level at half-time.

Akinde had Butler worried in the first minute of the second half, working space for a left-foot shot that floated narrowly wide.

However, Howe did well to keep Lowe out soon after, getting down to make an important save after the tricky winger had been played in by Hawkins.

The Town 'keeper also did well to stop Michael Richens' effort following a free-kick and Harriott's angled effort as the hosts probed, looking for a second goal.

The visitors seemed more keen than they had been to get shots away, with both Soares and Enver-Marum firing wide from the edge of the area.

Enver-Marum was given a much better opportunity as time began to tick down, being played in by a breaking Smart, but his angled shot was saved by Butler.

Hemel also had a couple of efforts from distance before referee Kaye decided to take centre stage.

Two soft penalties later and a game that should have ended 1-1 finished in a 2-2 draw.

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


Aaron Howe - 8 (out of 10) - Gazette Star Man
Continues to impress. No chance with either goal and made a few crucial saves.

Robbie Rice - 8
A solid performance from the reliable defender.

Tom Bird - 6
Given problems by Hemel's right winger and full-back, who doubled up on him. Unable to get forward as much as he would have liked as a result and picked up a needless booking for dissent.

James Harper - 6
Worked hard, but unable to really get into the game with the ball.

Jay Gasson - 7
One dodgy moment against Slabber aside, defended well. Somehow managed to win his side a penalty.

David Ray - 7
Strong at the back apart from one sliced clearance.

Louie Soares - 7
Found it hard to get into the game but produced an excellent cross to set up the first goal.

Nathan Smart - 7
Showed great energy on the right flank and did well going forward.

Liam Enver-Marum - 7
Feeding off scraps for long periods, but caused a few problems and made no mistake from the penalty spot.

Chris Flood - 7
Seemed to get a bit lost in midfield, but lost his marker to score Town's opening goal.

Sam Akinde - 7
Held the ball up well, but fluffed his lines when handed an excellent chance in the early stages.


Lloyd Macklin (for Akinde 65min) - 6
Unable to have any sort of impact after coming on.

Subs (not used): Simon Dunn, Manny Williams,Will Salmon, Harrison Gilkes

Hemel Hempstead Town: Jamie Butler, Ben Herd, Kyle Connolly, Matty Harriott, Terrell Forbes, Ed Oshodi, James Potton (sub Wilfried Gnahore 80min), Michael Richens, Oliver Hawkins (sub John Frendo 71min), Jamie Slabber, Jamal Lowe (sub Mo Shariff 71min)

Subs (not used): Ed Asafu-Adjaye, Ben Sampayo

Attendance: 414