Shoot-outs, near-misses and shattered dreams for Cup-chasing Dragons

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Basingstoke Town may no longer have any interest in this season’s FA Cup, but for a club currently enjoying their 125th anniversary, perhaps this is a good time to take a trip down memory lane and celebrate the biggest knock-out matches in their history.

Even before delving into past glories, the Hampshire club have already added to their back-catalogue of memories by taking part in two exciting FA Cup matches during the on-going campaign.

Both games were played at Basingstoke’s Winklebury home, and both ended in penalties. The first was a nervous 5-4 shoot-out victory over Bournemouth (not the Premier League version), before suffering defeat at the hands of Chichester City who won 3-1 on penalties after the game had ended 2-2. 

Despite this cup disappointment Basingstoke still have plenty to play for during their anniversary season, and are currently looking good in Division One South of the Southern Football League. Should they continue to perform, and consequently reach the National League, they may not struggle as much as one would think to compete: nearby teams Woking and Aldershot are respectively high- and mid-table and yet there’s not a great difference between them in the current football odds from Betfair. But for now let us concentrate on Basingstoke’s FA Cup history.

This famous old non-league club have made a number of appearances at this particular stage, but have never managed to be in the hat for round three – when the top two tiers of English football join the fray. Three times they have moved to within one victory of going into the hat, with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, but on each occasion fell short.

FA Cup at Wembley” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by andrew_j_w

The last time they reached the Second Round Proper – or last 84 – was in 2006/07 when the Conference South club came within 13 minutes of making the last 64 for the first time ever.

Sadly, for Basingstoke, opponents Aldershot grabbed a 77th-minute equaliser after Joe Bruce had put the visitors ahead from close range on the stroke of half-time. Even though the Dragons were at home for the replay, they were unable to repel Aldershot who ran out 3-1 winners to earn a third-round tie by the seaside in Blackpool.

Town had pulled off a 1-0 victory at League One Chesterfield in the previous round, and it certainly was not a vintage year for the Derbyshire club who ended the season being relegated. Basingstoke had made it through to this stage by beating Worcester City 7-6 on penalties in the fourth qualifying round.

The Basingstoke players question the decision of the referee to award Woking a free kick

Basingstoke at Woking-” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Chris Turner Photography

Nine years earlier, the Dragons had reached the Second Round Proper for the second time in their history and, on this occasion, were denied a place in the last 64 on penalties. Yet again, they had earned a reply by drawing the first game away from home – against Northampton – before losing the reply which ended goalless after 120 minutes. Northampton edged through 4-3 in the shoot-out. It was Basingstoke’s 19th cup game of the season, while the Cobblers went on to face top-flight Leicester City who were being managed at the time by Martin O’Neill.

Basingstoke had reached the second round via yet another penalty shoot-out – this one against Wycombe Wanderers (after both games had finished 2-2). The match against Wanderers on November 25th, 1997, yielded a club record attendance for Basingstoke of 5,085.

The first time the Dragons made it as far as the Second Round Proper came in 1989-90 when, in another close encounter, they were beaten 3-2 at home by Torquay. Torquay went on to shock West Ham in the last 64 before losing narrowly at Blackpool.

Basingstoke had reached round two with a comfortable 3-0 victory over fellow non-leaguers Bromsgrove Rovers. And now the Dragons will have to wait until next year to add any more memories to their FA Cup database.

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