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Manager Jason Bristow warns that shirts are up for grabs after Basingstoke Town's poor friendly display
BASINGSTOKE Town manager Jason Bristow warned his squad that places in the starting 11 are up for grabs after a poor showing in their latest pre-season friendly.
The Camrose club were distinctly second best for much of Tuesday night’s trip to Southern Premier new boys Hungerford Town, with the Berkshire club fully deserving the 2-2 draw they achieved thanks to a last-minute wonder goal.
“We never got going,” Bristow admitted. “They came out of the blocks quickly and are a good side, while our passing was poor and we did not get tight enough to them all over the pitch.
“We are not where we want to be at the moment. There were a lot of positives on Saturday but tonight we took a step backwards.
“It’s getting to the point where we’re making decisions about the starting line-up and we learned a lot tonight. The players have to decide whether they want to be in the starting line-up for the first game and put themselves in the shop window on Saturday.”
Basingstoke had shown signs that they were coming to terms with Bristow’s new game plan at Met Police last Saturday, keeping the ball well and creating chances.
Things were much different on Tuesday as the visitors struggled badly on what was admittedly a difficult pitch. Things were especially bad in the first-half, when they were comprehensively outplayed by their lower league opponents.
Centre-backs Ross Adams and Jay Gasson do not look at ease bringing the ball out from the back and struggled when put under pressure by the Hungerford strikers.
This problem led to the opening goal after just four minutes as Nathan Campbell was caught in possession after receiving a pass from goalkeeper Joe McDonnell. With Adams and Gasson having spread wide to give McDonnell options, a Hungerford player had a clear run through and slotted home.
The first 20 minutes were almost painful to watch from a Town point of view as they failed to get close enough to their opponents and gave the ball away almost every time they won possession.
However, they did manage to level the game 19 minutes in, showing a glimpse of the free-flowing football they aspire to, with Jordace Holder-Spooner providing an excellent finish.
Despite this, the problems continued and Town were lucky to go into half-time level – but the introduction of midfielder Wes Daly and centre-back David Ray sparked a second-half improvement.
Ray is far more comfortable on the ball than either Adams or Gasson and probably needs to be in the side if Bristow is to persevere with his plan to play out of defence, while cultured midfielder Daly’s passing skills will be crucial if it is to work.
Both sides had chances, with former Town striker Stefan Brown going close for the hosts and Ray failing to get enough on Andrew Jenkinson’s cross at the other end.
After a nervous first-half, goalkeeper McDonnell also improved, making some brave saves, and it was harsh on the hosts when Town took the lead 67 minutes in, Jenkinson slotting home after great work on the edge of the area from Manny Williams.
It looked like the visitors would claim an undeserved victory but Hungerford levelled with the last kick of the game, a curling effort finding the top corner after a nice move.
The highlight of Bristow’s evening probably came after the final whistle, when talented midfielder Jenkinson, a product of the Reading youth system, signed for the club on a non-contract basis.
That leaves right-back Marcus Johnson-Schuster as the only remaining triallist at the club going into the final friendly at Poole Town on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).
Town youngsters Alex Charlick, Kieran Maylen, Chris Paterson and Tom Lockyer helped Thatcham Town to a 5-3 friendly win over Wantage on Tuesday and could join the Berkshire club on loan.
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