THERE was plenty of late drama at Vauxhall Road on Saturday, with referee Elliott Kaye awarding both sides very soft penalties in the closing five minutes.

In the end, it was the right result. Neither side really did enough going forward to deserve all three points and 1-1 would have been a fair reflection on the game.

However, the way that result came about was slightly worrying. From the sidelines, it looked very much like Kaye realised he had made a mistake in awarding Hemel Hempstead a penalty and set out to even things up, penalising the hosts for an incredibly minor infringement.

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Penalty drama

Let’s start with the penalty incidents. It has to be said that I didn’t have the best position to judge the incident that led to Hemel Hempstead taking the lead for a second time with just five minutes remaining.

Hemel broke quickly, something they did throughout the match, with Wilfried Gnahore racing down the right wing and into the Town penalty area. James Harper ran out to meet the winger and as he did, Gnahore looked to stop the ball and turn quickly.

From my position, it was hard to tell, but it certainly looked like Harper got a toe to the ball, while the way Gnahore went down was far from convincing. It looked like he slipped as he tried to turn rather than being tripped and the assistant referee, who had an excellent view, did not flag. However, Kaye decided that there had been a foul and pointed to the penalty spot.

I spoke to a couple of Town players after the game and while they may be slightly biased, both were adamant that Harper had not fouled his man.

Kaye may have made a mistake, but that in itself is not a massive issue. Had they lost the game in that manner, Town may have felt aggrieved, but errors happen.

To their credit, Basingstoke did not allow their heads to drop and went in search of an equaliser. A free-kick was put into the Hemel area from the halfway line and Jay Gasson went up for the ball with a defender.

I had a much better view of this incident and could immediately see that the defender had his arms around Gasson as they competed for the high ball.

It was the sort of challenge that normally leads to a free-kick if committed in the middle of the park, but defenders normally get away with it in the area. Indeed, there had been several similar incidents that had gone unpunished in both boxes throughout the game.

On this occasion though, Kaye decided that action needed to be taken and pointed to the penalty spot for the second time in the space of three minutes.

By the letter of the law, he may have been right, but it was a tremendously soft penalty to give. The fact that he had let several similar incidents pass with no censure earlier in the game shows a lack of consistency and perhaps indicates that Kaye was looking for an opportunity to award Town a spot-kick.

It’s human nature to attempt to make amends if a mistake is made, but two wrongs do not make a right and it is easy to understand why Hemel manager Dean Brennan was so annoyed at the final whistle.


The final five minutes may have provided most of the talking points from the game, but the previous 85 minutes were full of tactical intrigue, if not a huge amount of goalmouth action.

Basingstoke stuck with the 3-5-2 shape that they had played in their 1-0 defeat at home to Gosport five days earlier, but with two personnel changes.

Robbie Rice replaced the departed Matt Partridge on the right side of the back three, while Liam Enver-Marum came in for Simon Dunn, with Chris Flood asked to play in an attacking midfield role.

Hemel Hempstead lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Matty Harriott played a deep-lying midfield role, with Michael Richens looking to get forward a bit more.

Town enjoy plenty of possession but Hemel threaten on the break

Basingstoke made a solid start to the game, having two decent efforts in the opening couple of minutes, but a moment of quality from Harriott gave the hosts an eighth-minute lead and the game then settled into something of a pattern.

Having gone ahead, Hemel were content to sit back and allow Town to have possession. The centre-backs and even deep midfielder Harper found themselves under surprisingly little pressure when they had the ball, but there were few options ahead of them as the hosts got men behind the ball.

Sam Akinde did a good job of holding the ball up, giving Basingstoke the option to go a little bit more direct and play in the Hemel half, but the run of seven games without a win seemed to be having an effect.

Several times, Town players got into crossing positions but elected not to put the ball into the box, opting instead for a safer short pass, while Akinde spurned a great opportunity by trying to take the ball around the home goalkeeper.

When they broke out, Hemel looked dangerous, with Oliver Hawkins and Jamie Slabber big targets for quick balls out of defence. The full-backs also joined in, doubling up with the wingers to outnumber Town’s wing-backs and make them cautious about venturing forward.

For the most part, it was something of the midfield battle. By getting men behind the ball, Hemel were able to neutralise Town’s extra man in the centre of the park, while Flood was unable to get into the game.

However, the value of having an extra striker on the pitch was proved 10 minutes before half-time. Louie Soares produced an excellent ball, whipping it to the far post, where Flood arrived unmarked to head home.

The pattern continues

The game continued in the same way after half-time, but Town’s confidence seemed to be on the up, with players attempting shots when they got into good positions.

Basingstoke manager Jason Bristow made a change on 65 minutes, replacing Akinde with the pace of Lloyd Macklin. In some ways, this was a surprising move, as Akinde had done a good job of holding the ball up, but Liam Enver-Marum is more likely to nick a goal.

Hemel made three changes, all of them like-for-like, and it was the hosts who probed a little more towards the end of the game, finding space in midfield and creating a few half-chances.

However, they only really troubled Town goalkeeper Aaron Howe on a couple of occasions and the game seemed to be meandering towards a draw before Kaye’s late interventions.


As I said at the start, a point each was probably a fair result, and while it wasn’t a fantastic performance, there were positives for Town to take from the game.

For a start, the way they reacted to going a goal down to a soft penalty so late in the game was pleasing and the fact that they got something out of the game should give them a confidence boost going forward.

They are also getting used to playing 3-5-2 again. It’s a formation that suits the players they have in the squad and if they keep improving, that long-awaited first win of the season surely isn’t far away.