Stalemate with Basingstoke does little for Marlow's play-off chances

Kameron English hit the underside of the bar for the Blues

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Marlow 0, Basingstoke Town 0

Marlow's faltering form continued as they were held to a goalless draw at home by Basingstoke Town this afternoon (Saturday), a result that does little for their play-off hopes this season.

Manager Mark Bartley described the game as 'must-win' ahead of kick-off and knew a draw or defeat would leave their hopes hanging by a thread heading into the final four games of the campaign.

However, in a play-off race that no one seemingly wants to win, several of their rivals also drew meaning they remain just four points adrift of the top five ahead of next Saturday’s home game with Sutton Common Rovers (April 9).

A feisty, blood and thunder, game was anticipated between these two rivals after the Blues had controversially beaten Town 1-0 at the Winklebury Stadium earlier in the season. However, it was anything but intense in tepid first half as both teams struggled to settle and play football on a difficult surface.

Basingstoke were marginally more composed on the ball and created the better chances. In the sixth minute the ball found its way through from the left to Benjamin Cook on the edge of the box, but his side-footed effort was weak and comfortably saved by Simon Grant.

The Blues responded well, with Adam Richards heading the ball back across goal for a diving Louis Rogers to direct the ball into the grateful arms of Paul Strudley. Either side of him and Marlow would surely have been celebrating the first goal of the afternoon.

The Blues looked solid in defence but were largely disappointing in possession giving the ball away on countless occasions as the ball bobbled around on a dry, uneven, pitch.

Grant came to the Blues rescue just after the half-hour when George Reid was sent clear down the left by former Slough Town schemer Simon Dunn. Dunn's ball over the top was latched onto by the winger but Grant got out to smother his attempted chip and push it out for a corner.

The game then sprang into life in the final 10 minutes of the half. Lloyd Snell missed a big chance for the visitors in the 41st minute, rolling the ball just wide of the upright after being played in by Dunn.

A minute later Kameron English escaped his marker at the far post but couldn't quite divert home a wonderful cross from the right.

There was still time for Reid to slide another decent chance wide of the mark for Town, and the Blues came off at the break knowing they'd been second best in a game they really had to win.

They improved to an extent after the interval but never really did enough to earn the points. In the 50th minute Richards rose well to power a header inches over the crossbar from a corner.

Then, just eight minutes later, English broke clear on the left side of the Basingstoke area and thumped the ball off the underside of the crossbar with Strudley well beaten.

Striker Marcus Mealing was introduced for the final 15 minutes and very nearly scored with his first touch, getting up well to direct a header from corner goalward, but Strudley saved well.

There were half-hearted appeals for a handball in the area when Jordan Brown hooked the ball goalward with 10 minutes to play but the referee wasn't interested in the players' appeals.

Basingstoke rarely threatened in the second half, but the result was good enough to keep them fifth, just a point above Uxbridge who were held to a 1-1 draw by Binfield. Basingstoke's only second half chance of note came late on when substitute McKoy Palmer cut in from the right and let fly from the edge of the box, but his shot was so high and wayward it went out for a throw in on the far side.

Marlow remain just about in touch with the play-offs heading into their final four games, however, realistically, they'll need to win all of them and hope for some favours elsewhere.

As Bartley said afterwards, they now need 'snookers' to keep their promotion dream alive.

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