Romsey upset the odds by returning from their visit to the league champions in possession of three vital points that will secure their berth in Hants/Surrey Div. 2 next season. With a squad stretched thin by both injuries and family commitments, Romsey showed the gritty determination so often lacking in the first half of their season and became the first side to keep a clean sheet against Basingstoke in the league this campaign.

Romsey knew they might struggle with the bouncy Grange Down surface and indeed they never settled into a passing rhythm as moves were frequently ended early either by missed traps or heavy touches. The hosts had significantly the better of possession and territory but could not make it count on the scoreboard as the Romsey rode their luck to claim a smash-and-grab victory.

Many of the hosts’ attacks resulted in penalty corners rather than shots in open play and whilst Basingstoke consistently threatened from these set pieces, they could never quite find a way through.

Instead Romsey went ahead against the run of play as Mark Gilbert gathered the ball on the edge of his own D and fed a pass wide left to Lucas Cross, who went on a mazy run from the halfway line that beat several opponents. He found Lewis Birch inside the area who displayed the confidence of a striker in outstanding goal-scoring form to calmly lift the ball over the GK and into the net.

With things not quite going for them and rattled by conceding, the hosts started picking up a large number of green cards (mostly for dissent) and flirted with more serious punishment as they tested the patience of the umpires.

Jack Forrest-Charde set up another promising opportunity with an intelligent reverse pass that bypassed three ‘Stoke midfielders and left David Edwards advancing on the area, but the two-on-one chance was squandered as his attempted pass to Neil Strong was delayed too long and picked off by the centreback.

Romsey goalkeeper and man of the match Lozz Scott had already made several important interventions before denying a penalty corner dragflick with a stunning stick save high to his right in the final action of the first half.

Basingstoke remained well on top after the break but continued to huff and puff without producing the clinical hockey that has taken them to the title. Playing only his second game for the team, Gilbert’s extensive experience of playing at this level for other clubs was clear as he showed remarkable coolness in possession when dropping in to help the backline out on several occasions.

A reverse scoop from the middle of the Romsey area had everyone waiting as it teasingly took an age to drift just a couple of inches over the bar, and the home side must have sensed it was not their day when a penalty corner effort cannoned back off the post.

Romsey had few real chances in the second half and their ability to threaten on the break was dealt a blow when a Basingstoke defender solved the riddle of how to stop Birch’s awesome scoring streak by launching an aerial into his head from close range that opened up a nasty cut and ended his game.

Romsey held firm in the remaining minutes and the win sees them climb above City of Portsmouth in the table, ahead of next Saturday’s final round of fixtures that see HAC travel from London for what should be an entertaining match up.

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