The Emirates FA Cup has caused numerous upsets over the years with the Clarets themselves being on the right end of some excellent results in recent times, most notably with Colchester United in 2012.
So with the Clarets travelling to Basingstoke, a team currently finding themselves rooted to the foot of the National League South and with their only win this season coming against Slough in the FA Cup, the visitors had to be wary with the ‘Stoke playing without much fear or trepidation, and they well and truly left the shackles the dressing room.
That seemed to be the case as on 11 minutes the hosts found themselves in front after Manny Williams capitalised on an error from City ‘keeper Christian Dibble. He could do little about the Dragons’ second, though, with Chris Flood picking out the top corner with a stinging effort from 25-yards.
Aiden Palmer – who missed out on the Clarets’ victory over his parent club Ebbsfleet United in the last round of the FA Cup – brought the Clarets back into the match when he poked home from close-range, but Liam Enver-Marum finished the tie off with a well-taken double as the Clarets left depleted. Hughes hit a stunner late on but the tie was already well out of reach of the Clarets.
In response to last week’s 4-0 home loss to Oxford City where the Clarets failed to mount any successful attacks, boss Mark Hawkes looked for a more expansive team with Bagasan Graham, Mark Haines and Hugo Skepelhorn all making way for Luke Daley, Lee Sawyer and debutant Jordan Brown, who joined on loan during the week from West Ham United.
The change in personnel also meant a change in formation with the Clarets selecting a more flexible 4-2-3-1 set-up which saw Ebbsfleet United loanee Sean Shields operating in an unfamiliar position off the striker, while Daley, who returned from an injury, and Tomi Adeloye flanked Brown.
The formation didn’t seem to work too well in the opening stages though as the Clarets found themselves stretched and trailing after just 11 minutes. The hosts broke forward with Louie Soares bursting through the middle before firing a shot at Christian Dibble, but the City ‘keeper parried the shot right into the path of Manny Williams, and the experienced striker made no mistake in sweeping home.
Hawkes’s men were struggling to get out of their own half and found themselves 2-0 down 12 minutes later when Chris Flood picked the ball up from 25-yards before firing a shot that flew into the top corner, leaving Dibble with no chance.
And that second goal forced the Clarets to revert to 4-4-2 with Adeloye joining Brown up top and Shields operating in his natural position on the wing.
They were almost punished though when Liam Enver-Marum burst through into the box, but he dragged his shot wide of an upright.
That miss proved costly as a minute later the Clarets halved the deficit. Williams lost the ball on the edge of his own box in a rare ‘Stoke error, allowing a ball to slip through to Aiden Palmer. The left-back managed to keep his balance and slide a shot underneath the body of Aaron Howe with the former Sutton shotstopper advancing.
Palmer’s strike altered the complexion of the match completely and gave the Clarets some added impetus, forcing the Dragons’ defence into a couple of errors as nerves began to take over.
But City’s good work was very nearly undone when a sloppy mix-up between Palmer and Lee Sawyer’s short corner was picked up by Basingstoke who hit the Clarets on the counter-attack. Their blushes were saved when Rob Girdlestone shook Flood off the ball and calmly played it back to Dibble to clear.
The Clarets then had a perfect chance to level moments before the interval but the Dragons escaped via a goalmouth scramble. Rory McAuley’s looped header was heroically cleared off the line by Soares before Adeloye’s effort was blocked and then finally collected by Howe, ending first-half proceedings.
Chelmsford were sent out early for the second-half as they looked to rescue their FA Cup campaign and almost brought the tie level within minutes, but Adeloye’s shot lacked power and deflected into Howe’s arms.
That was to be Adeloye’s last contribution as he was replaced three minutes after the restart by Skepelhorn, with the youngster looking to replicate his Ebbsfleet heroics and bring the team back into the match.
Basingstoke broke forward with authority and purpose as they aimed to restore their two goal advantage, and they almost achieved just that when Palmer brought down Williams on the touchline. Girdlestone was then out-jumped by Flood at the back post, but last season’s top scorer could only nod Tom Bird’s drilled set-piece over the bar.
They soon restored the advantage on the hour mark when Shields lost the ball in the middle to Williams. The ball then broke to Enver-Marum who had plenty of time to pick his spot and strike past Dibble to put the tie beyond doubt.
Tempers flared on the City bench in the aftermath of the goal as the management team felt that Shields was unfairly brushed off the ball. It was one of those coming togethers: some are given, some aren’t.
The visitors were pegged back in their own half for the next half an hour and were restricted to very few chances, although Brown looked to show some promise when he burst down the left, eventually winning a corner that was blocked by skipper David Ray. Skepelhorn then had a chance but his curling effort had too much elevation to threaten.
Basingstoke ended all hopes of a replay when Enver-Marum added his second of the game, firing home from 20-yards.
The Clarets had one final say though with captain Hughes seeing his strike from outside the box bulging the net after hitting the inside post, although it was a mere consolation.
But for a twenty minute burst following Palmer’s goal, a Chelmsford comeback didn’t really ever look likely and credit must go to Basingstoke for the win: they were clinical, decisive and defended well. Maybe this result will give them a springboard when they return to league action next Saturday, although Chelmsford fans will hope it doesn’t.
Their next match? Away to Basingstoke.
1. Aaron Howe
2. Nathan Smart
3. Tom Bird
4. James Harper
5. Jay Gasson
6. David Ray (C)
7. Louie Soares
8. Harrison Gilkes
9. Liam Enver-Marum
10. Chris Flood
11. Manny Williams
12. Lloyd Macklin (On for Manny Williams, 62’)
14. Will Salmon
15. Rob Rice (On for Harrison Gilkes, 87’)
16. George Hallahan (On for Liam Enver-Marum, 84’)
17. Taylor Watts
18. Aaron Jarvis
20. David Smalley
1. Christian Dibble
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Aiden Palmer
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Marvin Ekpiteta
6. Rory McAuley
7. Luke Daley
8. Lee Sawyer
9. Jordan Brown
10. Tomi Adeloye
11. Sean Shields
12. Harry Morgan
14. Hugo Skepelhorn (On for Tomi Adeloye, 49’)
15. Marvel Ekpiteta
16. Charlie Henry
17. Connor Pearce
18. Jonah Gosling (On for Luke Daley, 70’)
19. Bagasan Graham
Referee: Mr. Carl Brook
Assistant referees: Mr. Leigh Crowhurst and Mr. Matthew Goldsmith
Bookings: Basingstoke Town: James Harper (27’, foul)
Chelmsford City: Mark Hughes (90+3)
Scorers: Basingstoke Town: Manny Williams (11’), Chris Flood (23’), Liam Enver-Marum (60’, 81')
Chelmsford City: Aiden Palmer (31’), Mark Hughes (89')
HT score: 2-1
FT score: 4-2
City Man of the Match: Rob Girdlestone