BASINGSTOKE Town suffered an opening day defeat in their Southern League Division One South campaign, as they went down in a goal feast 4-3 to visiting Barnstaple Town.

This was their first game at their temporary home venue at Winchester City, and a good crowd of 268 saw a much-changed Dragons outfit with only four of last season’s team Reece Rusher, Ben Wright, Adam Everiss and new captain Dean Stow in the starting line-up.

After an even opening, the home side took the lead on 19 minutes, after a lovely move.

Wright flicked the ball out to the right wing for Morgan Toney-Green who sent the ball into Rusher. He controlled it with his first touch and then on the turn fired the ball into the net.

A minute later, the visitors so nearly equalised as Neil Bettis flicked a header from a corner just over the bar.

The Devon side then levelled things on 27 minutes, as Saddam Bello, who proved to be a real handful all afternoon forced a corner.

Jed Harper-Penman sent in the flag kick to the back post, where it was headed back for Brian Levine to smash into the net.

Then just before the break, Bello managed to create a chance for himself and looked certain to score, but former QPR man Kraig Noel-McLeod, who only signed on Friday, cleared the ball off the line.

Soon after, the teams headed to the dressing rooms and at 1-1 there was plenty of optimism among the home fans.

However, after the break, the visitors took hold of the contest early on and just two minutes after the restart took the lead.

Theo Simpson was allowed time on the right wing to whip in a cross which no one dealt with and Liam Short slotted in at the back post.

Just three minutes later, Simpson did the same thing again from a free-kick, but this time the Dragons got away with it.

Then on the hour mark, Wright went down in the Barnstaple penalty area and from this the visitors broke out. Simpson was able to go unchallenged right from his own half and slotted in his side’s third of the afternoon.

To their credit the home side hit back just two minutes later, as from a Rusher corner Noel-Mcleod headed the ball back for Wright to hammer home to make it 3-2.

Basingstoke came looking for an equaliser and a fierce shot from Toney-Green could only be pushed away by goalkeeper Steve Oliver, stinging his hands in the process.

Rusher then had a shot tipped onto the bar, but on 75 minutes the home side were hit by a sucker punch as Bello again out muscled the back line and via a deflection off Joe Hancott the ball hit the net to make it 4-2.

Once again, Basingstoke responded as five minutes later, Stow’s free-kick to the back post was headed back and in a goal mouth scramble Ben Cook forced the ball home.

With five minutes left in the contest a really heavy challenge from Bello on home goalkeeper Freddie Gee, left him hopping around his area for the remainder of the game and he will now be a doubt for Tuesday night’s game at Sholing.

With nine minutes of added on time played, there was still time for Bello to crash the crossbar with a shot and Basingstoke’s Toney-Green and the hard-working Claudio Herbert to have chances, but it remained 4-3.

After the game Basingstoke manager Martin Kuhl said: “We have scored three goals, but like pre-season we have given away some soft goals again. We need more desire to stop this happening.”

“I think their number nine (Bello) did a really good job all afternoon keeping our back three occupied. Credit to Barnstaple they worked hard all game.”

“We will go again on Tuesday at Sholing and look to get something out of the game.”