Basingstoke 3 Blues 2 – full report added

Mark HughesSecond half goals from Mark Hughes and Marvel Ekpiteta weren’t enough as Blues went down 3-2 at the Camrose on Tuesday evening.

Skipper Hughes returned after injury but they were without Jack Thomas who suffered a knee injury a few days earlier against Hereford and although named in the original starting line-up failed to get through the pre-match warm-up. It meant that Kevin Watson had to rejig his side with Chad Cruse coming in at left back with Tom Clifford on the left side of midfield whilst on the other flank Max Brassington was at the back and George Casey in midfield.

The Blues boss gave Jamie Cureton a rest although he was to come off the bench on the hour mark.

The mid-table Dragons were on the front-foot at the start and almost took the lead in the ninth minute when Marvel Ekpiteta was harshly ruled to have fouled striker Bunting 25 yards out and George Bennett’s resultant free-kick struck Calum Kitscha’s left-hand upright.

The first danger from Stortford came in the 15th minute as home skipper Guri Demuria slipped and let Clifford attack on the left and when the Southend United player cut the ball back to Hughes saw his shot blocked by defender Dan Bayliss.

Bennett was close with a rising shot from the left past the near angle of the goal and then Stoke went ahead in the 21st minute. The speedy Sam Smart who was a menace to the Stortford defence all night sped down the right flank and crossed for Bunting to net with a diving header.

Smart had a deflected effort held low by Kitscha six minutes later whilst at the other end Darren Foxley’s free-kick from the left in the 33rd minute was headed on by Hughes and Alfie Mason directed the ball narrowly wide of the far post.

Mason also had a low drive held by keeper Colm McAdden but Stortford dropped further behind in the 37th minute when Sam Smart struck with a low shot from just inside the box after Bunting had crossed into the middle and Jack McKnight had dummied over the ball.

Stortford had more of the possession on the restart but Smart was again in the limelight in the 61st minute when he hit the outside of the near post after cutting inside from the right wing and the ball rebounding out for a goal-kick.

With Cureton now on the pitch the Blues looked a more potent force and a Foxley free-kick bounced across the area without anyone getting a touch but soon afterwards, in the 67th minute, another deep free-kick from the right by Foxley was met by a firm header from ten yards into the net by Hughes.

Stortford were having a good spell at this point and a first time drive by Hughes from the edge of the box flew wide. However, Watson’s team was caught cold when the Hampshire side registered their third goal of the night in the 73rd minute.

There seemed little danger when Smart collected the ball out on the right touch-line but he played the ball inside to Sam Deadfield, a good 25 yards out, who drilled the ball low into the corner of the net with Kitscha motionless.

Stoke’s Tim Wohlfiel had an acute angled shot held by Kitscha but it was Stortford who did most of the attacking in the closing stages. Keeper McAdden couldn’t hold a Foxley corner and when the ball ran loose Mason’s shot from the edge of the area was deflected over the bar.

From this corner in the 85th minute, again taken by Foxley, Ekpiteta headed in from close range

There was just three added minutes at the end of the contest and early on in that period Ekpiteta headed a Clifford cross from the left over the bar and that was to be the closest Stortford got to salvaging a point.

STORTFORD: Calum Kitscha; George Casey; Tom Clifford; Mark Hughes; Marvel Ekpiteta; Joe Robinson; Max Brassington; Chad Cruse (Jamie Cureton 60); Alfie Mason; Darrren Foxley; Jordan Westcott.

Unused substitutes: Jack Thomas, Jamie Riley, Marcus Crowther and Callum Lynskey.

BASINGSTOKE TOWN: Colm McAdden; Tim Wohlfiel; George Bennett; Dan Collier; Guri Demuria; Dan Bayliss; Sam Deadfield; Michael Atkinson; Callum Bunting; Sam Smart; Jack McKnight.

Unused substitutes: Harry Long, Kieran Rodgers, Luke Richardson, Aiden Harris and Jack Martin.

Attendance: 211