Aldershot 1 Basingstoke 1: Bruce gives Shots big scare

Giantkillers come close to another shock and fully merit a replay
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The Independent Football

The FA Cup may have lost some of its magic but it will never forgo its ability to produce the illogical. Basing-stoke here led for much of a combative tie and were the more committed and resilient throughout.

That they were even in the competition at this comparatively late stage was remarkable. They slumber at the bottom of the Conference South yet they had overcome Worcester City in the fourth qualifying round before providing the biggest surprise of the first round when they beat Chesterfield of League One. Then being drawn against their neighbours brought yesterday's adventure.

Aldershot had gone out of the competition at the second round in the past three seasons and their manager, Terry Brown, who has been involved in football for 30 years, has never got into the third round. Their supporters, who did so much to resuscitate the club after the original one was wound up in 1992 deserve seeing the Shots playing against one of the big guns in the third round, but first their team need to improve on this performance in the replay on Tuesday week.

The gaps that opened up in their team's defence in the opening period offered little optimism and there was not much improvement. Basingstoke's tall striker James Taylor found them effectively and forced a diving save from Nikki Bull.

It was 15 minutes before Aldershot imposed any comparable pressure, but when they did Basingstoke were thankful to Ben Surey for positioning himself on the line to clear a strong header from Rhys Day.

Because of injuries Aldershot had to improvise in their choice of defenders and play only one striker. Basingstoke continued to test them as well as having the better of the battle in the middle of the pitch. They also forced Bull to make another important save at the near post from Matthew Warner who had scored Basingstoke's winner against Chesterfield.

Better finishing and they would have ended the first half further ahead than they did after Joe Bruce poked in a goal following Warner's attempted overhead kick that was not properly cleared. "That was a real relief," their manager, Francis Vines, admitted. "We don't create enough chances which is why we are where we are in the League. We defend well enough.''

A superb save by Stuart Searle from Louis Soares' heavy shot retained his team's lead and they also benefited when Ryan Scott hit the post. Aldershot steadily improved without really looking confident. Even though Searle achieved another remarkable save to deny Day's header, eventually, in the 77th minute a centre by Darren Barnard was crisply turned in by John Grant.

Basingstoke merited a replay. Their commitment never wavered and even over the final difficult minutes they were often first to the ball. "It was just willpower that got us another chance," Brown said. "I didn't want to play only one up front in such a big game as this, or to rely on character alone - but we did, just.''

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