A muddy puddle came between Hayes & Yeading United and an eighth away victory of the season at The Camrose, Basingstoke, but the point they earned from the draw was enough to mathematically confirm their safety from relegation this season.
With just eleven minutes remaining, Ram Marwa thought he'd hit the winner when he slid the ball past home goalkeeper Nick Jones only to see the ball stop in the mud just one agonising yard away from the goal line and Sean Hankin swept in to clear.
The conditions dominated the game throughout with a strong wind and pouring rain making the aerial route problematic and the heavy, bumpy pitch making short passing difficult.
Hayes & Yeading had the wind behind them and the downward slope in the first half and took advantage with a dominant display. In the fifth minute, Marwa headed James Mulley's left wing cross just over the bar and Joel Ledgister was put through by Hendry soon afterwards but pulled his shot well wide.
Basingstoke had little answer to the United onslaught and Jones almost handed United an opening goal when he spilled Staforde Palmer's fierce 20 yard shot, but he managed to gather the loose ball before any United attacker could pounce.
In a rare attack, the home side forced a corner and Jason Bristow headed Ben Wells's corner kick towards goal only to find Nevin Saroya handily placed to clear. James Taylor picked up the clearance but his shot was bravely blocked by Marwa.
Danny Allen-Page had a fine game on the right hand side and twice in quick succession, he set up good chances for the United forwards. First he slotted the ball to Palmer whose 20 yard shot flew just over the bar and then he burst through the middle of the pitch before sliding the ball to Ledgister whose shot went just wide of the far post.
Three minutes before half time, Hayes & Yeading's dominance finally paid off. Will Hendry won a tackle in the middle of his own half and burst through the middle of the pitch. His precise pass put the ball into Ledgister's path and the on loan forward fired the ball in under Jones's despairing dive.
This goal advantage was scant reward for United's dominance and with Basingstoke having the wind and slope advantage in the second half, United knew that preserving their lead may be difficult.
As a result, the second half was tilted in Basingstoke's favour and Alessio De Angelis was called upon to make a flying save from Tom Bird's 20 yard drive after Saroya had only half cleared Hankin's cross.
Soon afterwards, Michael Charles's looping header landed just onto the roof of the net after Peter Collins's weak defensive header failed to clear Wells's cross. On 66 minutes, the home side got their equaliser. Scott Fitzgerald had space on the right to cross and his far post ball found Charles who made no mistake with his header this time.
United had a golden opportunity to go back in front four minutes later. Palmer found Allen-Page in space on the right and the wingback cut inside and rounded Jones. However, his shot was charged down by Bristow. Hendry collected the loose ball and curled a shot towards goal but Hankin covered his keeper well with a saving header. Still the ball wasn't clear and Allen-Page laid the ball off to Marwa whose shot was deflected inches wide of the post.
A minute later, Hendry hit a free kick which was inadvertantly blocked by Perkins on its way to goal but Basingstoke swept down the slope and Taylor crossed for Charles, whose swift turn allowed him to shoot, only for De Angelis to pull off a remarkable save to tip the ball onto the post. Peter Collins cleared.
United thought they'd won it in the 79th minute but the conditions conspired against them. Allen-Page's throughball was dummied by Palmer and this created enough room for Marwa to dart into the penalty area. He slid his shot underneath Jones and wheeled away to celebrate only to see the ball stick in a muddy puddle in the goalmouth and watch as Hankin slammed the ball clear.
Palmer was twice denied by Jones as United finished strongly, but in the latter stages, De Angelis was called into action again to gather in Wells's cheeky near post effort from 25 yards.
Deep into injury time, a long range shot from Ledgister was deflected wide but United couldn't take advantage from the corner and the final whistle sounded to end the game even.
Report by Nick Bell. Photos by Ray Peploe.
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