Finally, at the fourth attempt, we got to host our near neighbours from just down the M3. Thursday night footie does seem odd, but, at least for me, it completed a full set as I had previously watched competitive Football on every other day of the week, except Thursday.
Borough gave a home debut to Jamal Lowe, welcomed back Harry lee and our other surprising, but equally welcome, returnee, Tyrone Berry, started on the bench. It did seem strange seeing The Yellows line up without Steve Laidler, but these things happen and life goes on.
Borough: Kevin Scriven, Josh Huggins, Ollie Treacher, Harry Lee, Alan Inns (C), Luis Morrison-Derbyshire, Dan Bennett, Matt Ball (Adam Doyle 63), George Sykes (Tyrone Berry 51), Jamal Lowe, Phil Page (Connor French 51).
Subs not used:- Alfred Bosch and Ade Cole.
Basingstoke: Louis Wells, Rob Rice, Adam Green, Andrew Jenkinson, Jay Gasson, David Ray (C), Nathan Smart, Simon Dunn, Jordace Holder-Spooner (Kezie Ibe 46), Manny Williams (Robbie Matthews 85) and Louie Soares.
Subs not used:- Ross Adams, Marcus Johnson-Schuster and Kieran Greene (gk).
Referee: A. Degnarain – Assistants: M Taylor and J Creswick.
The match got underway at 7.48pm with the visitors attacking the PRE and after a couple of minutes probing from each side, Basingstoke broke quickly and with the Boro’ defence looking for an off-side flag, Smart put Manny Williams through and he coolly slotted home for the opening goal after just 3 minutes.
Boro’ didn’t let their heads drop at the early reverse and made a number of forays into the Basingstoke half. Good play by Treacher on the left flank led to Page meeting his cross only to see his effort blocked. Matt Ball, who was looking quite comfortable in the number 8 shirt, was busily linking defence and attack and taking most of Boro’s free kicks. All too often though, when play reached the final third, our forwards wanted far more time than the visiting defence were prepared to grant them and as a result many promising attacks came to nothing.
Stoke had their moments and caused problems with the speed of their counter attacks. One such swift movement was well chased down by Luis Morrison-Derbyshire and turned back to Scriven. From a corner on the right the ball reached Adam Green but his tame effort trickled through to Kevin Scriven.
Boro’ went on the offensive again and a Matt Ball corner on the left was punched away by Wells, then Dan Bennett saw his effort cleared for yet another corner which resulted in Jamal Lowe causing Wells to make a sharp save dropping on the ball on his goal line.
Just before the half hour mark, a series of rapid attacks saw the visitors defence blocking several efforts in quick succession before a ball across the box from the left ran just behind Page who contrived to miss the ball altogether in an attempt to back heel it in from no more than a yard.
After a mix up in the Stoke defence almost gifted Boro’ an equaliser, they broke away quickly and were unlucky not to double their lead when Jenkinson rattled the cross bar from 30 yards. However, they were not to be denied for long and just two minutes later, following a poor attempt at a clearance by Huggins, the ball hung invitingly in the air allowing skipper David Ray to nod home their 2nd in the 38th minute.
The remainder of the half and a minute of added time passed largely uneventfully apart from a long range Dan Bennett effort which failed to test Wells.
Half Time: Borough 0 – Stoke 2
In truth, the scoreline flattered the visitors somewhat. Borough were not short of effort, but Stoke were a yard faster and made it work to their advantage. Having to integrate new players and some returning for a 2nd spell, can’t be easy and takes time, but Boro’ must keep going and not give up.
The 2nd half started at 8.48 pm with Kezie Ibe replacing Jordace Holder-Spooner for the visitors. Borough fans being aware of his work rate and capabilities cannot have felt any easier to see a previous favourite enter the fray. Play was fairly even with both sides seeking to attack, Bennett tried a shot from distance which was too high, then, having forced a corner on the right, Ball played it short to Bennett but missed the return and the ball was cleared.
In the 51st minute, Boro’ made a double substitution, replacing Page and Sykes with French and Berry. Stoke were next to threaten, when Ibe broke forward only to scuff his shot wide from the edge of the area. French then won a corner on the right which produced nothing allowing the visitors to renew their attack. First, Morrison-Derbyshire did well to cut out a through ball and clear his lines, then Inns at full stretch managed to clear another cross over his bar for a corner. Stoke were really on fire at this point and a strong header from full back Adam Green was tipped over by Scriven and the Boro’ goal led a charmed life from the ensuing corner.
Boro’ made their final sub on 63 minutes, bringing on Adam Doyle for Matt Ball. Good play by French gave Bennett the chance to cross from the left, but his effort went high and behind. Following a skirmish, Wells blocked a shot on his line and French just failed to connect with the rebound. With 15 minutes left, Doyle and Inns pressed forward to boost the attack and following a long free kick Josh Huggins did well to cross the ball, but nobody got on the end of it.
Doyle broke up a Stoke counter attack, then Inns headed clear a Green free kick and Scriven collected the follow up. Green was showing good form for Stoke and ran strongly into the area in the 80th minute where Huggins seemed to be caught out at first, but made up ground and tackled him winning the ball. However, when Green went down under the challenge, Mr Degnarian pointed to the spot. It seemed a rather harsh decision especially when he didn’t feel it warranted a booking. Manny Williams duly dispatched the penalty for his 2nd of the night and Stokes 3rd.
The visitors made a further substitution in the 85th minute, replacing Williams with Robbie Matthews. The remaining few minutes and the added time of three minutes, produced nothing much of note with the visitors content to see time out. Harry Lee did hit a late 30 yarder which cleared the PRE, but he did at least have a shot.
Result: Borough 0 – Basingstoke 3
Not a happy night for the Borough, who clearly need time to create a cohesive unit from established squad members, new additions and returning loan players. Basingstoke took full advantage of what chances they had and were much sharper than the home side.
Borough lacked pace and seemed reluctant to have a go when a chanced was created, opting instead for a pass too many. With less than 48 hours before facing Sutton, Boro’ will need to step up a gear if they are to avoid a third consecutive defeat.
Match Report by Tony Duff.
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