..... and both would make impressive debuts, along with Nick Jordan replacing in goal the departing Danny Potter. Basingstoke, with injury issues themselves, still had a large number of 1st choice players returning to the fold, so it was important that the Boro side settled quickly.
Jordan, who would be awarded MOM by the match sponsors, Identity Live Communications, was called into action early on as Shaun McAuley tested the Boro keeper in the 6th minute. The visitors were into their stride and the Boro defence, with Sam Cole
moving to centre-back, needed to be at their best in the opening exchanges as as expected Tim Sills was 'hit' with early balls by 'Stoke.
Boro began to get a grip on the game on 15 minutes, the returning Marvin Hamilton's effort from distance deflected, and almost into the path of the advancing Gary Hart
. Charlie Gorman
delivered a great cross from the right, and as the ball was set back Boro volleyed high and handsome, but the momentum was building for The Sports. Ashley Bayes pulled off a magnificent flying save on 21 minutes, Gorman's volley arcing to the top corner before the stoppers intervention.
On 40 minutes the Basingstoke right-back, who would have a torrid time all game dealing with the magnificent Josh Scowen, received a 'yellow', before Coles excellent low drive through a crowded penalty area pulled another great save from Bayes.
Boro started the 2nd 45 well, dominating territory, but only producing half chances for Adlesbury and Hart, before Sills produced efforts to allow Jordan to earn his MOM with a reaction save and brave block in the space of 2 minutes on the hour.
was introduced for Charles Ademeno just beyond the hour, but the next action was the clearest chance of the game that Sills 'fluffed', the scrambling Jordan possibly taking the Basingstoke strikers eye off the ball at the far post with just a touch needed to finish.
On 70 minutes Smart received his 2nd card, Scowen racing away from him cynically brought down with 70 yards still for the Boro No.8 to travel. Would The Sports be able to make the man advantage count ? Initially it looked like no, the visitors working hard to deny time and space, the Boro bodies possibly beginning to tire. Indeed Jordace Holder-Spooner tested Jordan and McAuley shot over the bar from distance, but in the final 10 minutes Boro started to move the ball quicker, and indeed move quicker, the side sensing all three points were more than available here.
It was a period of possession football linked to quick first time passes across the massed ranks of the visitors defence that produced the winning goal. After a 15 minutes spell of chasing the ball down, Lok found the ball at his feet in the area, and he had the composure to shift the ball to change the angle, and fire low into the bottom corner, Bayes finally beaten, 1-0 Boro.
The visitors bombarded Boro in the closing 6 minutes, and Boro defended stoutly, possibly lacking the composure to hold the ball, but ultimately Basingstoke did not have the quality to grab an equaliser, the whistle bringing the game to a close with a deserved victory for Boro.
The three debutants all made an impression on the game. Jordan making saves when called upon, the No.1 jersey in safe hands with the departure of Danny Potter. Michael Noone had a steady debut at left back, his strength and willingness to 'defend' evident against a side that went close to promotion last season. Ben Adelsbury took time to settle but his calming influence in midfield became more and more obvious, and he, along with Noone and Jordan, will only get better the more they play.
was clearly delighted to get back to winning ways. "Everyone wants to ride in the limousine, but you really know who is with you when it breaks down and you need help to push it" his cryptic comment, possibly angled at doubters following the previous 3 defeats in a short space of time. "When you have lost 3 games in a row it's a bad week. You could argue what might have been if we had him, or we had him, but we didn't, we had what we had. We went on the road to Welling and Salisbury and grafted really really hard. The lads gave me what they had but that little bit of sparkle was missing."
"We've just run through the age of the team in the dressing room and apart from Gary Hart
I haven't got a player over 23 playing for me at he moment." He went on "These 18, 19, 20 year olds have shown great character beyond their age, not brains beyond their age to be fair, that's for me and Alan to impart, but we are delighted with the win."
On the recent roller coaster of results he commented, "For others it's their job to build them (expectations) up, for me it's my job to to keep them down, keep them realistic. I know what I have under my bonnet," returning to car analogies, "I have a collection of young wild horses wanting to run on but I need to put my foot on the brake every now and then."
"I'm not surprised that we won this game today with the personnel at my disposal, against a side who just missed out on promotion last season. The result is the most pleasing, but the manner of achieving the result is also satisfying. They are a well built Conference South side, big all over the park who like the ball in our box but don't like the ball on the ground in theirs. I believe we did enough to force our will onto them," and with a smile "and a great substitution got us the win."
Borough: Jordan, Hamilton, Rowe, Noone, Cole, Gorman, Adelsbury, Scowen Johnson 90), Hart, Ademeno (Lok 63), Shephard (Gilbert 86)
Unused Subs: Morgan, Knight
Cards: Adelsbury Y, Scowen Y, Hart Y, Rowe Y, Gorman Y
Goals: Lok (84)
Basingstoke Town: Bayes, Smart, Rice, Adams (Patterson 55), Gasson, Campbell, Daly, McAuley, Sills, Holder-Spooner, Warner
Unused Subs: Brown, Dunn, Little, Morris
Cards: Smart YY=R, Daly Y
Ref: Mr Lugg
Maych Sponsors MOM, selected by Identity: Nick Jordan