First-half goals from Louie Soares and George Bennett gave Terry Brown’s men three points on the final day in a match that saw the Clarets struggle to register many chances.
The Clarets were punished for a loose back pass that allowed Liam Enver-Marum to run through before teeing-up Soares, and then an error from Christian Dibble allowed Bennet to put the match out of sight.
Since Kevin Maher took caretaker charge of the Clarets in mid-January, the Melbourne Community Stadium has become somewhat of a fortress. Wins were rare for the majority of the season, yet the 6-1 victory over Gosport a fortnight ago showed not only what the Clarets were capable of on a one-off basis but that they could perform consistently on their home turf. It was their 20th goal in five matches, their sixth home win in eight, and was arguably the most significant contributor to the side retaining their National League South status.
That form couldn’t be maintained in this end-of-season encounter, though.
It was perhaps fitting, however, that the Clarets had the first chance against already-relegated Basingstoke, a side that have propped up the table for most of the campaign. A ball into the box was curled in by Bagasan Graham, knocked down by Billy Bricknell and, just as Luke Daley set himself to fire home on the edge of the six-yard box, Dragons’ skipper, David Ray, flung his body at it to block it away. The deflection eventually worked its way to Bagasan Graham, but the winger’s shot was, too, denied by a cluster of blue shirts.
Daley stretched to meet Lee Sawyer’s deep cross following a quick corner that was initiated by centre-back, Rory McAuley, moments later, but he failed to generate a big enough leap as the visitors were let off the hook once again.
It felt, at times, like an exhibition match with nothing but pride to play for, and that applied to both sides. The match always needed a spark to get it going, and that didn’t arrive until the 30th minute. Unfortunately for the Clarets, it came from Basingstoke.
After City retained the ball for a good couple minutes along the back-line, the ball was eventually fired into Daley, but the winger’s first-touch popped up in front of him. The back pass that followed was mistimed and overcooked, feeding Enver-Marum who had a free run at McAuley. The City captain slipped, allowing the striker to feed in Soares who demonstrated excellent composure to slot home past Christian Dibble. Not an ideal scenario.
Dibble kept their advantage to just the one goal around ten minutes before the break, pushing wide a shot from Simon Dunn, but he was caught for ‘Stoke’s second on 38 minutes, allowing Bennett to tuck into the empty net after a hashed clearance dropped neatly into his path.
Chelmsford needed a reaction after the break and Maher threw on Under 21 striker Tim Monsheju in an attempt to claw their way back into the match, replacing Sawyer.
They were chasing shadows in the early stages of the second-half, though, as long balls kept being returned by the ‘Stoke’s resolute rear-guard, with Dunn acting as the metronome in midfield and passing it around his opponents with ease and precision.
Tom Bird, ‘Stoke’s left-back bombed forward after the Clarets were dispossessed midway inside Basingstoke’s half and, when Jarvis latched onto the threaded pass and rounded Dibble, there looked to only be one outcome. Fortunately for the City ‘keeper Marvin Ekpiteta was alert to cover and throw his body in front of the goal-bound shot.
Dibble was then called into action once again moments later when the Dragons hit City on the counter-attack, and the shot stopper smothered Aaron Jarvis’ tame effort from inside the box.
Chances were then few and far between, and a City comeback was never on the cards.
It wasn’t the end to the season that the Clarets would’ve wanted, but as the curtains came down on another exciting, pulsating, dramatic, and hard-fought campaign, a short break is needed before a new dawn shines bright. The hard work starts now.
1. Christian Dibble
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Marvel Ekpiteta
4. Reece Prestedge (C)
5. Mark Haines
6. Rory McAuley
7. Luke Daley
8. Lee Sawyer
9. Billy Bricknell
10. Harry Morgan
11. Bagasan Graham
12. Marvin Ekpiteta (On for Bagasan Graham, 76’)
14. Tim Monsheju (On for Lee Sawyer, 46’)
15. Amar Lewis (On for Harry Morgan, 84')
17. Connor Pearce
1. Dan Lincoln
2. Nathan Smart
3. Tom Bird
4. David Ray (C)
5. Guri Demuria
6. Jay Gasson
7. Louie Soares
8. Simon Dunn
9. Aaron Jarvis
10. Liam Enver-Marum
11. George Bennett
12. Rob Rice
14. Chris Flood (On for Liam Enver-Marum, 72’)
15. Manny Williams (On for George Bennett, 79’)
16. George Hallahan (On for Aaron Jarvis, 77’)
20. Aaron Howe
Referee: Mr. Josh Smith (Bourne)
Assistant Referees: Mr. Dean Appleby and Mr. Nigel Smith
Bookings: Chelmsford City: None
Basingstoke Town: None
Scorers: Chelmsford City: None
Basingstoke Town: Louie Soares (30’), George Bennett (38’)
HT Score: 0-2
FT Score: 0-2
City Man of the Match: Mark Haines