Monday, 11 February 2013

Report: Bashley 3-1 Kettering Town - Southern Premier

Rob Gradwell

FROM zero to hero in seven short days, Bashley fans just don’t know what to expect from Rob Gradwell.

The much-maligned striker’s abject display at Totton was the tip of an all-too-familiar iceberg, but his undoubted effort was finally matched with end product in this clash as he saved his side from an embarrassing defeat to basement boys Kettering Town.

Since scoring within a minute on his debut against Gosport Borough, the former Basingstoke forward has hardly wowed the crowd at Bashley Road.

And when he appeared from the bench with half an hour to play on Saturday, questions were asked as the hosts were in command but still seeking the killer touch.

Visiting centre half Henry Eze had been a vital component in Kettering’s ability to stifle the hosts, but the man mountain’s life became much more difficult as soon as Gradwell entered the fray and it became a matter of time before Bash blew the house down.

The Poppies dominated the opening 45 minutes, making the best of a sticky pitch, playing with verve and vigour against Frank Gray’s men who were clearly devoid of confidence.

Returning loanee Lewis Wilson added thrust to Town’s attack, showing strength and pace against Bashley’s backline.

The Northampton Town protégé’s snapshot on the turn forced Bash keeper Stuart Moore into a fine low save as early as the fourth minute before catching Ian Richardson in possession to draw another flying stop from the on-loan Reading custodian.

Both teams looked edgy and prone to error, but Kettering’s more incisive play saw them deservedly take the lead when Wilson latched onto Eze’s long ball, outmanoeuvring Richardson and stretching to prod beyond the on-rushing Moore.

The visitors gradually sat deeper once they got their noses in front but try as they might, everything Bash threw into the penalty area was comfortably dealt with by Eze with the home team looking visibly drained.

Bashley upped the ante after the restart but efforts on goal were speculative rather than spectacular as Josh Casey drew routine saves from Yannick Nlate.

That was, of course, until the hero of the hour arrived, pulling Eze all over the place with the rest of Kettering’s backline crumbling.

The space the burly front-man created allowed the likes of Casey and Charlie Knight to get on the ball and the former Salisbury City duo combined for Knight to test Nlate with a fizzing effort across goal before Gradwell’s header was hacked off the line by Chris Logan.

The leveller wasn’t far away though and it was that man Gradwell who made the breakthrough with some sublime skill, taking a great touch from Casey’s ball before playing a one-two with James Stokoe and sending a chip sailing over Nlate to equalise.

There was only going to be one winner from here as Logan again saved his side by denying Stokoe on the goal line, but Kettering never truly cleared and Knight cut in from the left to drill across Nlate, this time finding enough power to beat the on-loan Stoke City keeper.

Kettering still had their chances with Wilson shooting tamely at Moore and Ben Ford’s chip landing just over the crossbar as Bash threatened to implode.

But the persistence of Gradwell paid dividends again late on as he chased a lost cause, dispossessing Eze in the corner and rolling the ball back for Casey to cross for Stokoe whose far post volley settled the contest.

Bash will be hoping to see more of Gradwell’s great side. A meagre return of three goals in eight winless matches was suddenly matched in 14 second half minutes to hand Gray’s men a seven point cushion over the Southern Premier’s relegation places.

With the way Bash have battled in recent weeks, the size of that cushion surely depends on the goals for column.

Over to you Rob.

*BASHLEY boss Frank Gray shares his post match thoughts with the Bournemouth Echo here

BASHLEY: Moore, Strickland, Knight, Finlay, Middleton (Oliver 69), Richardson, Casey, Colson, Stokoe, Gamble, Hill (Gradwell 61). Unused subs: Stephenson, Gazzard, Kearn (g/k). 

Goals: Gradwell 74, Knight 77, Stokoe 88.

KETTERING TOWN: Nlate, Dossou (Hilliere 55, Ghaysi 66), Fox, Logan, Eze, Johnston, Noubissie, Hicks, Griffiths, Wilson, Ford. Unused subs: Pitharas, King, Muzvimbiri.

Goal: Wilson 28.

STAR MAN: Rob Gradwell (Bashley)

Tough call with Knight and Casey showing creativity as well as work rate and performing well, but Gradwell made the difference. Bashley’s failure to score goals seemed set to haunt them at a time they could least afford it until Gradwell came in. Always works hard and nice to see things finally click into place for the big man. 

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