BY NICK WILSON
Basingstoke continued their improved run of form by coming from behind to beat a resilient Stratford Town by two goals to one.
The game started slowly with neither side able to keep hold of the ball or build any momentum in the first 10 minutes but the visitors managed to find an early lead through top scorer Richard Gregory. The referee ignored Basingstoke appeals for handball as Gregory controlled the ball before turning and lashing a fierce strike into the corner, via a hand from Alex Tokarczyk.
The goal led to the game opening up a little more and Stratford could have doubled their lead when Gregory flashed a header just past the post following a free kick. Basingstoke began to threaten more too and showed they could be a real danger from set pieces as Sam Deadfield delivered a free kick from the left on 20 minutes. David Ray met it at the far post and Joe Gater had a shot blocked by Niall Cooper in the Stratford goal at point blank range before the rebound was lashed against the bar leaving Basingstoke wondering how they weren’t level.
Soon after though, Basingstoke were level and it was another set piece that this time found the head of Rob Atkinson. He powered it towards goal and despite Cooper getting a big touch to the ball, the referee’s assistant flagged for a goal and Atkinson wheeled away to celebrate pulling his team level.
Set pieces continued to be the source of Basingstoke’s best chances. Nana Owusu went close to repeating his effort of seven days before, forcing Cooper into an outstanding save before Deadfield also tested the visiting keeper with a free kick towards the end of a bad tempered first half. Half time came round and there was a definite feeling that the game was there to be won, with Basingstoke growing into the game as it went on.
HALF TIME: 1-1
Basingstoke started the second half strongly, Ray turning a free header over the bar. Both sides introduced substitutes to the game and Basingstoke started to turn the screw as time ticked away. George Hallahan dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box before seeing a weak effort across goal saved by Cooper and Owusu failed to convert a low cross from Michael Atkinson.
With just seven minutes remaining though, Basingstoke’s quality showed. Matt Partridge placed a quick pass perfectly in behind the Stratford defence for Owusu to run on to and slide home to the delight of the home fans. Stratford pushed on in search of an equaliser but Basingstoke held on to take a 2-1 win.
FULL TIME: 2-1