Sunday, 25 October 2015

Basingstoke Town 3 v 0 Torquay United

Saturday 24th October 2015
The Camrose, Basingstoke
FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round
Admission: £12.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 723
Match Rating: 3

A game in final round of FA Cup Qualifying, with the incentive for the winning clubs to possibly take on a Football League club hopefully adding an edge to the match, as well as the search for a new ground for me to visit, inspired me to make the long journey down to northern Hampshire today.

The Camrose is about a half hour walk from Basingstoke train station and is a rather basic, traditional non league ground, but is rather tired looking, rough around the edges, and has seemingly received very little TLC in recent times. After passing by the clubhouse outside the ground, the turnstiles are located behind one of the goals, and behind this goal there are a couple of uncovered terrace steps with burger vans and a rather uninviting club shop to the rear. Straddling the half way line on one side is an imposing, tall old fashioned all-seater stand, offering good elevated views but with some pylons and pillars to partially obstruct one’s view. Between this stand and a corner flag is a covered area of shallow terracing, but it is set some way back from the pitch and so does not offer good views of the action. Along most of the opposite length is a stand covering a few steps of terracing, but again set a long way back from the pitch, and so again does not offer great views. A more modern stand covers terracing behind the remaining goal. The programme was a rather curious effort, overpriced for just 16 pages, although in fairness there was very little advertising, but 9 of the 16 pages were exclusively about today’s visitors, with almost no news of the home club, reports from recent games nor even a fixture list or league table.

The FA Cup was surely a welcome distraction for both clubs today, as both have made disappointing starts to their league campaigns. After losing in the promotion play-offs last season, Basingstoke find themselves bottom of the National League (formerly Conference) South, with just six points and without a win from their opening 13 games. They have won two games in the FA Cup to reach this stage, beating Slough Town and Chelmsford City, both at home 4-2. Torquay entered the FA Cup at this stage, but in the National League Premier, they have gained 15 points from their 18 games and were in 21st place in the 24 team division, making a return to the Football League seem very unlikely to happen any time soon.

On a dull, grey afternoon with persistent drizzle, the home side got off to the perfect start when the took the lead on 4 minutes, Will Salmon heading the ball into the net from a corner. Torquay fought to get back in the game, rarely looking like they would score an equaliser though, and Basingstoke doubled their lead on 34 minutes, when Chris Flood mishit a shot from a cross and the ball looped over the keeper and hit the underside of the bar before bouncing over the line. Torquay, who brought a sizeable following today, came close a couple of times before half time, but Basingstoke fully deserved their two goal lead at the break.

One might have expected the Torquay players to come out for the second half with renewed fight to save their FA Cup campaign, but in reality they put in an even worse performance in the second half, as they let the game drift before the home team sealed their passage to the First Round Proper draw when Flood scored his second and Basingstoke’s third with a low cross shot following a corner on 60 minutes. Basingstoke comfortably saw the rest of the game out as Torquay generally looked clueless in how to get back into the game, although they did come close to pulling one back a couple of times in the closing minutes.

So whilst on paper this result goes down as a shock, Basingstoke thoroughly deserved their victory, with a controlled and resolute performance that made a mockery of their winless struggles in the league. Torquay will hope this was a one-off poor performance as, judging on today’s performance, they could have a battle on their hands to avoid relegation.

Video highlights of this game can be found here

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