Beaconsfield Town and Basingstoke Town battled to a gripping committed draw at Winklebury Football Complex on Saturday afternoon but in truth, the weather was the only winner and neither really came to terms with the windy conditions sufficiently to play with very much quality in a game that was long on effort and application and short on quality.
In the final analysis, Jon Underwood will probably be the happier of the two managers as his team hung on for a point after being reduced to 10 men when referee Adam Merchant inexplicably chose to Red card Josh Payne after an innocuous non-incident after 70 minutes. Payne, seeking to prevent a quick restart, leant on Paul Hodges as the pair went to ground after a challenge. Mr Merchant proving the general unreliability of eye witnesses, somehow saw a vicious assault in the shape of a headbutt and immediately brandished the red card. With no one else present any the wiser including Hodges who later reported called the decision the worst Red card he had ever seen. Had he been the victim of a vicious assault you’d imagine he’d have been less charitable. It was emblematic of Mr Merchant's performance which showed little flexibility for the difficulties of the blustery conditions.
The afternoon had begun more positively for Beaconsfield with Rams skipper Luke Neville winning the toss and electing to play with the strong and gusting wind. He was rewarded after only Eight minutes. When Dan Bradshaw found space on the right and measured a cross to the far post where Sam Granville arrived to head home past Paul Strudleyin the Basingstoke Town goal.
Despite the benefit of the wind, The Rams struggled to come to terms with the conditions and didn’t really make the most of the advantage with through passes frequently running away from Zidan Akers.
When they did manage to play football they did create chances. Strudley saved brilliantly to deny Joe Morrison after a Dan Bradshaw shot was blocked into his path. Josh Payne hit a post and Akers netted the rebound but was adjudged offside, despite a strong suspicion that Strudley had touched Payne’s effort onto the upright which would have played the striker onside.
Then from a quickly taken Payne freekick Asher Yearwood steered a lobbed volley over Strudley but the officials disallowed the effort possibly for a push the suspicion would seem to be that the linesman believed Yearwood was offside?
Half Time 0-1
Anyone who has watched Beaconsfield of late would have had their doubts as to whether a One goal lead at the break would suffice. Even the most pessimistic Rams supporter would have expected it to last slightly longer than Two minutes though!
Basingstoke’s first set piece was met squarely by William Upton in splendid isolation in The rams box and he headed home from 8 yards. Against the elements it looked like being a long afternoonn for the visitors but they dug in and when the defence looked like being breached Matt Rowley in The Rams goal stood firm. Commanding his area in his usual fashion and keeping out everything Basingstoke threw at him. In truth though the Homeside struggled as much as Beaconsfield had to tame the elements and use them to full advantage.
Beaconsfield remained a threat on the break with the pace and strength of Zidan Akers offering a constant threat. Even after Paynes sending off The Rams almost pinched it. Akers burst through but could not get a shot off as defenders recovered. He appeared to have been thwarted but his persistent created space for a shot his low drive was saved well by Strudley but fell into the path of Asher Yearwood eight yards out he reached the ball first but Strudley recovered quickly springing at Yearwood’s feet and smoothering the effort before Yearwood had a chance to lift it over him.
After that chance it was all Basingstoke, Bradley Wilson was a constant threat down the right and almost put the home side in front as a firmly hit cross floated over Rowley and cannoned back off the inside of the post. Then Hodge sent Rowley flying to his left to make a full length save.
As the Six minutes of added time ticked down to the final seconds Basingstoke forced a corner, Jacques Kpohomouh cleared the first effort across goal, it was worked back into the danger area where it was met by William Upton. Six yards out with the goal at his mercy, he seemed certain to score his second and claim the points. Rowley had other ideas though and somehow the goalbound downward header hit the keeper and ricocheted up onto the underside of the bar before bouncing down and being cleared to safety by Ben Van-Aurich.
That was that. Honours even.
The Rams now return to Holloways Park where they take on Hungerford Town next Saturday.
All Images ©Neale Blackburn Photography 2023
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