Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Basingstoke Town 2 Maidenhead United 0

Fifty not out. That’s the number of football matches I’ve now watched this season. A half century. 

This one, which rung up half of the grounds in the Conference South to add to my near complete set in the Conference North, wasn’t one of the more memorable from this season’s Odyssey, but it was passable entertainment for a bitterly cold evening. 

Winter has returned with a vengeance and I liaised through the day with Mr Hallgarth to make sure the match was going to go ahead. The wind had been whipping round with gale-force intensity in my part of London overnight, but mercifully it hadn’t brought any fresh snowfall. 

He lives in Basingstoke, which adds at least an extra hour to most of his journeys north to watch Boston, but it is quite a nice place. First impressions count in many towns and the local authorities have clearly realised that passengers stepping off trains for their first visit, like me, will base their entire judgement of the place on what they first come across. 

So, the thriving shopping mall opposite the station passed the test and since the place produced Liz Hurley, it really doesn’t have anything else to answer for. There was also a very attractive girl from Basingstoke on my course at Sheffield but that’s another story...

“Watch out - Basingstoke has a horrendous one-way system,” warned Mike at work, as though I’d never escape the place. Good job I didn’t take my car then!

The Camrose, adjacent to a retail park heading out of town, has seen happier days and Hallgarth informs me they have been trying to relocate for several years. It has terraces on three sides and a seated main stand, with four slim floodlight pylons along each touchline and a clubhouse opposite the turnstiles out in the car park. 

As mentioned before on here, the Conference South is ludicrously tight as we enter the final stretch of the season. 15 points separate the final play-off place and the relegation zone and, off the back of a harsh winter, we have the usual uneven pattern of matches played which has the potential to shake everything up some more.

Basingstoke and Maidenhead was a meeting of 14th against 15th, which hardly promised much entertainment, but given how close the league is, there’s always the potential of using games such as this as a springboard for an improbable late play-off surge. 

Basingstoke made a rip-roaring start, to the delight of the 300 or so hardy souls who had braved the temperatures and occasional flurries of light snow. On four minutes, Simon Dunn and Manny Williams combined on the edge of the box and Wes Daly stormed through the away defence to fire home. 

A few minutes later, Williams headed home from Daly’s cross, returning the favour, and putting Basingstoke firmly in charge of the game. 

They had much the better of the remainder of the half and perhaps they would have scored a third with a better final product. Delano Sam-Yorke, who has a great name, looked their main threat after the break and it took a great challenge from Maidenhead’s Devante McKain to prevent him getting a goal. 

I was nattering away to Adam for most of the game and was paying less and less attention to the action as it faded to a natural conclusion. I don’t really recall many efforts of note at either end and was only snapped out of my slumber when Maidenhead started sending their goalkeeper Billy Lumley forward for corners with five minutes still to play.

He darted up the field about five times as the visitors enjoyed their best spell of the game, with the subs and coaches on their bench finding it hilarious and doing nothing to deter his lunacy. It was certainly the earliest I’ve ever seen a goalkeeper start going up for corners and, sadly, he was unable to get a goal for his lung-busting efforts. Maybe he was just a bit cold. 

Basingstoke, then, extended their unbeaten run to five games and, given how close things are, perhaps they could still avoid mid-table mediocrity.

Next Match: Not entirely sure, but soon!