Basingstoke earned their first win of 2019 at local rivals Hartley Wintney thanks to two goals in quick succession in the second half following a frustrating Christmas period.
Manager Martin Kuhl had pronounced himself happy with performances throughout the festive fixtures, despite his side only managing one point from three previous matches and was delighted to see his side return home with all three points from the second of three local derbies in a week. Kuhl conceded that it was the worst performance his side had put in since Christmas, yet Basingstoke were deserved winners on an afternoon that saw them keep the Hartley attack in check.
It was part one of the second double header between the two sides this season, the previous set of back to back games being split, each side winning 3-1 away from home a month ago. It was the away side that triumphed once more this time round as Sam Smart and Harry Pearse each capped fine individual performances with a goal while Aaron Redford produced an assist on his return.
The first chance went Hartley’s way inside the first couple of minutes as Colm McAdden stretched to pluck a header away from the corner of his net but Basingstoke soon gained control and, on another day, Zidan Akers could’ve had four or five goals in the first half as the majority of chances came his way. The winger’s first opportunity came as he beat the onrushing Adam Desbois to a long ball over the top, hooking the ball away from the keeper before curling a precise shot towards the net, only for Nathan Smart to get back and head it off the line.
The game fell into a pattern of chances coming and going for the former Hearts man. After switching to the right flank, he burst through on goal but saw Desbois save his shot, as well as the follow up effort from Sam Argent while an audacious curling effort with the outside of his right boot went narrowly wide. Back on the left-hand side he was able to cut in on his stronger foot and after scuffing a shot at Desbois he then flicked a low cross just off target.
Mitch Parker had recently switched from Basingstoke to Hartley and he curled a hopeful strike from 20 yards straight at McAdden during a brief period of respite for the home team but it was still Basingstoke who were on top and they were screaming for a penalty to no avail as Argent appeared to be bundled over inside the box.
Hartley will have been relieved to make it to the half-time break on level terms but the match followed the same script in the second period, Argent going particularly close with a left footed volley that bounced inches wide of the mark. Aaron Redford was named on the bench, the former Fulham striker back with the club after moving abroad in the summer of 2017 for spells in Iceland and Spain and after being introduced to proceedings in place of Argent, created the opening goal within two minutes.
Winning the race for the ball down the right-hand channel he cut it inside for Sam Smart who headed for the by-line before smashing an emphatic, rising effort in off the underside of the crossbar. It took less than five minutes for ‘Stoke to double the lead as Harry Pearse grabbed his second in five starts for the club. After taking possession near the halfway line he ignored the option of feeding Smart, driving instead through the middle of the home defence before finishing off the solo run by shooting low with his right foot inside the post.
Akers had one more chance from the edge of the box but it wasn’t his day as he drilled wide. Basingstoke were able to comfortably see out the win though, the only worry being an injury that forced skipper Charlie Kennedy off at half-time leaving Basingstoke stretched thin at the back with a packed January schedule showing a total of nine games in 28 days.