By Nick Wilson
Basingstoke earned themselves a place in the 3rd round of the Southern League Challenge Cup with a comfortable 4-1 victory at home to Division 1 Central side, Fleet Town.
Basingstoke named a strong side while the visitors made 8 changes and the difference showed on a night where Basingstoke were rarely threatened. It took just 3 minutes for the hosts to take the lead, Joe Gater getting on the end of a corner from Richie Whittingham at the far post and placing it beyond Fleet goalkeeper Dease Kerrison for 1-0. Fleet responded with a powerful strike from range by Pat Cox which Kieran Greene blocked with a strong left hand. Basingstoke started to control possession though and looked to exploit the pace they had up front with Aaron Redford and George Hallahan.
Kerrison was called upon several times to come out to clear long balls in behind his back four. The game got scrappy at times and for a while both teams struggled to build up much momentum. As the half wore on however, Basingstoke started to create a couple more chances. First Hallahan dragged a shot just wide after good work from Redford, before Whittingham tried his luck from distance.
Basingstoke were given the perfect opportunity to double their lead five minutes before half time as Whittingham was needlessly bundled over in the box. He picked himself up and fired home from the spot for his fifth goal of the season. It was almost worse for Fleet as Whittingham combined with Sam Deadfield to open up space on the edge of the box but he couldn’t double his tally as Kerrison denied him.
HALF TIME 2-0
The second half started similarly to how the first ended, Whittingham going close but seeing his shot go just wide. Fleet tried to force the issue with a triple substitution on 55 minutes, Ben White, Ben Toye and Brett Stanley coming on and the changes had an immediate impact. Basingstoke found themselves pressed back and just four minutes after coming on, Toye managed to turn in the box and finish low to bring the visitors back into the game.
It seemed that Basingstoke would have a real fight on their hands for the last thirty minutes but they were able to respond quickly. A quick throw in caught Fleet napping and Deadfield took one touch away from his marker before lifting the ball over Kerrison to restore the two goal lead within three minutes. The third goal was a huge blow to Fleet who struggled to recover. Basingstoke made their own triple substitution halfway through the second half as Hallahan, Redford and Whittingham were replaced by Rob Atkinson, Romone Rose and Aaron Jarvis.
Like Fleet, Basingstoke’s changes also made an impact and it was Aaron Jarvis who picked the ball up on the corner of the area, turned inside then out before driving the ball across Kerrison for a fourth for the home side with five minutes remaining.
FULL TIME 4-1
Basingstoke team: Greene; Johnson-Schuster, Gater, Partridge, Owusu; Kennedy, M Atkinson, Deadfield, Whittingham (R Atkinson 67); Redford (Rose 67), Hallahan (Jarvis 67). Subs not used: Shade.
Fleet team: Kerrison; Williamson, Rousell, Harfield, Chandler; Martin (White 55), Sowden, Cadete, Fawcett (Stanley 55); Watts (Toye 55), Cox. Subs not used: Short, Davis.