Basingstoke travel north to face Redditch United on Saturday looking for a third victory in a row to help secure a top half finish. Redditch currently lie 17th in the Southern League Premier Division having gained 47 points from their 42 league matches, leaving them five places and nine points behind Basingstoke. The previous meeting between the sides ended in a 1-0 win for Redditch back in December at the Ark Cancer Charity Stadium thanks to a goal from Reece Hales in the midst of a difficult run for Basingstoke around the festive period.
After a strong start Redditch’s season has suffered after a difficult run which has seen the team win just once in the league since the 17th December reverse meeting, including losses in each of the last four games.
Saturday’s hosts are managed by former Premier League and Jamaica international striker Darren Byfield, who will be keen to turn around his team’s recent slump in form after what he lamented as “the right performance” in a 2-0 defeat to St. Ives last time out. The match will take place at the recently revamped Valley Stadium which had an artificial 3G pitch installed and changing rooms refurbished at a cost of almost £1 million.
The home side will have almost a full squad to choose from, with just Jordan Liburd missing due to suspension.
BY NICK WILSON
Basingstoke were held to a draw in Worcestershire by a Redditch side that ended a run of four straight defeats, despite coming from behind to lead in the second half.
The home side started well as Basingstoke struggled to get a foothold in the game and were made to pay as they conceded on nine minutes. Zaqib Hussain was the man celebrating as he got on the end of a high cross to place the ball just inside the post with a smart volley from close range to give his side a deserved lead.
As the game went on, Basingstoke grew into it and started creating chances. Sam Deadfield curled a free kick just over the bar and Dan Collier stung the palms of Redditch keeper Bradley Catlow after a good header down by Matt Partridge and the pressure eventually told as Partridge finished off an excellent flowing move. The ball was worked to the left hand side where Aaron Jarvis swept it back with a good crossfield ball to Marcus Johnson-Schuster. The full back combined with Michael Atkinson inside the box with a series of passes before the ball was squared to Partridge to slot home ten minutes before the break.
Partridge almost had a second just a few minutes later as his run in behind was picked out by George Bennett and his low left footed shot was saved by the advancing Catlow as Basingstoke finished the half strongly.
HALF TIME: 1-1
The second half started the way the first ended – with Basingstoke controlling possession. Jarvis tested Catlow with a low free kick while Rob Atkinson had an impact at both ends. First a crucial sliding block to deny Dior Angus before a typically adventurous run saw him avoid two tackles on his way to the byline before his pull back was scrambled into the grateful hands of Catlow.
Basingstoke pulled their noses in front though on 63 minutes through top scorer Jarvis. Partridge place a long diagonal in behind Jack Coates and Bennett raced onto it to cross the bouncing ball first time and Jarvis met it at the near post with a wonderfully deft finish, turning the ball into the net via the crossbar for his 15th goal of the season.
Basingstoke kept pressing and now looked favourites to win. In the absence of Nana Owusu, Partridge and Bennett were next to try their luck from free kicks but both efforts cleared the bar and at the other end Redditch found an equaliser against the run of play. Substitute Kaylum Mitchell found space on the left side of the box but dithered as he tried to work the ball onto his right foot. His shot was eventually deflected to Angus who hesitated before squaring to strike partner Luke Keen who tapped in from the six yard box.
Both sides started to struggle in the heat through the last ten minutes and despite Basingstoke pressing they couldn’t find another goal while Alex Tokarczyk was called upon to make a save in stoppage time. The game ended on a sour note as Joe Gater was shown a second yellow card for dissent and received his marching orders but the numerical disadvantage came too late to affect the score as honours ended even.
FULL TIME: 2-2