By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN returned to a refurbished Cams Alders for the first time in over three months on Saturday as they hosted Basingstoke Town FC in their latest pre-season match; but new goalposts and a reseeded pitch surface weren’t enough to beat their Isthmian League opponents. In warm sunny conditions it was a good performance from the Creeksiders who showed heart and desire in scoring two goals against quality defenders, but the gulf in attacking talents told as they went down 5-2 in front of a crowd nearing 200 fans.
It was the hosts that created the opening chance on six minutes as winger Casey Bartlett-Scott fired over a dangerous free-kick, with Ethan Jones nearly capitalising on a defensive error as he drove high and wide from a twenty-yard effort moments later. Fareham were also denied a penalty as Josh Benfield appeared to be tripped advancing inside the box in a tangle of legs, the referee surprisingly blowing for a free-kick the other way despite loud appeals by the respectable home contingent taking shade watching behind the goal.
And it was from this goal that Basingstoke took the lead just sixty minutes later as the ball was worked into the centre of the pitch, a fine through ball splitting the home defence to find Brad Wilson who made simply no mistake in sliding underneath Fareham goalkeeper Henry Woodcock into the bottom corner. This lead was quickly doubled moments later when good passing play created space for an attacker to play a curling cross into an uncertain area, the striker sliding home to make it 2-0 to the visitors from their first two attacks.
Fareham reduced the arrears on their next foray forward as Bartlett-Scott latched onto a fine ball down the left before beating his marker for pace, the attack halted by a clumsy tackle inside the area. This was given as a penalty by the referee and Jones made no mistake as he sent the keeper the wrong way into the right corner to make it 2-1. But Basingstoke restored their two-goal lead from their next chance as James Clark smashed home into the roof of the net following a long ball over the defence, making it 3-1 at the interval.
Basingstoke made multiple changes at the break compared to Fareham’s none, with the hosts starting well as they won a series of corners that were easily cleared away to safety by the away defence. And the score was soon four-one on 52 minutes as another long ball caught out the Fareham backline, leading to a striker running through and sliding underneath the onrushing Woodcock; a goal that triggered mass substitutions for the hosts as Pete Stiles attempted to bring some fresh life into key midfield areas with the game already lost.
And these changes made an immediate impact as Fareham made it four-two just moments later as some good work from Connor Underhill saw him drive into midfield, setting up Benfield whose first time shot left the keeper with no chance into the bottom corner. But Basingstoke were still looking dangerous down the other end as a thunderbolt hit the crossbar and another low effort slicing the base of the right post in quick succession; away possession on a fine passing pitch dominating proceedings either side of the hour mark.
Basingstoke’s attacking pressure finally reaped their reward as good passing found Wilson through on goal beyond the defence, the striker slamming home into the near post despite the best efforts of the keeper. And although Ben Quick showed good feet on occasions in midfield, there was no further chances for either side as the game played out to an inevitable conclusion with Fareham’s desire never fading until the final whistle
Many positives will be taken from the Creeksiders despite being outclassed in attacking areas and the final scoreline at Cams, this match being the first of three pre-season games this week. Littlehampton Town will be visiting on Tuesday night before a local derby versus Gosport on July 30, the derby likely to claim a large crowd given their previous clashes in history. Fareham’s first game of the Wessex League season will also be at home as they play AFC Stoneham on August 2, before hosting Hythe & Dibden in the FA Cup (06/08).
PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN FC: Immaculate pitch surface before home friendly versus Basingstoke.