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Non-league: Stephenson stars as Bash hammer rivals
The 21-year-old, who has been out of the game since his release from Dean Court in January, made his Recreation Ground debut after signing on Thursday night and made an instant impact by sealing an important three points for Frank Gray’s men.
Bash were already two goals to the good as returning front pair Rob Gradwell and Mark Gamble hit the ground running, scoring either side of the interval.
Gradwell’s opener came on the stroke of half-time after the hosts had played the better football, the former Basingstoke striker steering home Josh Casey’s low centre to settle the nerves in an edgy encounter.
Gamble then added a well-timed second four minutes after the restart to put Bash in complete control following good work from Casey and Reading loanee Andrew Jenkinson.
But Stephenson, who impressed Gray in a recent reserve fixture against AFC Totton, went one better with his pair of instinctive finishes backing up a stellar defensive display.
The former AFC Bournemouth trainee drilled a low shot that the referee’s assistant deemed to have crossed the goal-line midway through the second half before peeling away to slot home Jenkinson’s free-kick to complete the rout.
Bideford did manage a late consolation, but Gray was still left purring at full-time. He insisted his side could realise their potential now their injury woes have subsided.
The Bash boss told the Daily Echo: “Tim defended very well and got two goals, so I guess he will take centre stage, but we were pleased with the whole team. It was a good win because we knew we had to get a positive result.
“The opening two goals came at a good time for us. While we weren’t in any danger at 0-0, and I always felt we were more than capable of breaking them down, the timing of the goals was perfect and it gave us a platform to perform as well as we did in the second half.
“For the first time this season, we had a near enough full strength side to choose from and the result speaks for itself. I am a lot happier now because we always knew it was just a case of getting the right players firing on all cylinders. If we can keep everyone fit, we have a reasonably strong squad.”
Meanwhile, the return of Gradwell and Gamble up front meant a deeper role for James Stokoe, who impressed his boss in a central midfield berth.
Gray added: “James gave us more of a physical presence, he won the headers and tackles in areas that we haven’t dominated enough this season.”
Bash: Moore, Bell, Oliver (Hill, 83), Stephenson, Middleton, Richardson, Casey, Gradwell (Foster, 89), Stokoe, Gamble (Knight, 78), Jenkinson. Unused subs: Strickland, Kearn (g/k).