JASON Bristow set his Basingstoke Town team up slightly differently for last night’s trip to Boreham Wood – and his alterations paid off.
Town were the better side for long periods of the game but ended up with one point rather than three because, once again, they were unable to turn their opportunities into goals.
They lined up in the expected 4-4-2 shape, but it soon became clear that there had been some tweaks to the formation, with Louie Soares playing very high on the left wing, meaning Town were playing with a front three at times.
Boreham Wood did line up in a more traditional 4-4-2 shape. Both of their central midfielders sat deep, protecting the back four, with left winger Graeme Montgomery the man tasked with linking the team together.
The game began with a goal, Montgomery’s excellent effort after just 15 seconds putting the hosts ahead – but Town reacted very well.
Despite suffering such an early setback, the visitors were very impressive in the opening half-an-hour.
Out of possession, they played a relatively high defensive line and pressed high up the pitch, forcing Boreham Wood into mistakes and hurried clearances.
On the ball, they kept possession well, passing at a high tempo, while Bristow’s experimental formation had the home defence unsure who they were supposed to be marking.
Soares began the game on the left wing but had the freedom to roam and find space across the pitch. His starting position was very high, and he interchanged well with both Kezie Ibe and Manny Williams, who were both disciplined at times, covering for Soares on the left defensively.
At one point, Ibe and Williams dragged the home centre-backs to the left, leaving space for Soares to exploit between them and the Boreham Wood left-back. Matt Partridge found him with an excellent pass and only a decent save from the home goalkeeper prevented what would have been an excellent goal tactically.
In addition to linking well with Soares, Ibe also played a big part in Town’s success, holding the ball up well and using his pace to cause the home defence more problems.
It really was good to watch, but the old issue of turning good possession and territory into goals remains a problem. Boreham Wood were content to sit back and defend, with their central midfielders playing very deep, and Town struggled to break them down.
Considering how dominant they were, clear chances were at something of a premium until Adam Green produced the perfect cross for Partridge to head home just before the half-hour.
Boreham Wood were struggling, with Town’s pressing game preventing them from having much in the way of possession, but their front men were lively and caused a few problems on the break.
The visitors were getting men forward but Wes Daly again proved his worth, showing great discipline to protect the back four when Boreham Wood looked to counter.
Basingstoke continued to press in the early stages of the second period but were unable to make the breakthrough, with several good opportunities missed.
This eventually cost them the win as, having expended so much energy pressing the hosts, they began to tire from the hour mark onwards.
Partridge’s excellent effort from distance apart, it was the hosts who looked the more likely winners in the final quarter of the game.
Montgomery, comfortably the home side’s best player on the night, played a big part in this, staying high on the left and showing good touches to feed the strikers. They looked far more threatening when receiving the ball into feet or running in behind the Town defence than they had in the first half, when they got little change out of the Town defence battling for high balls.
Town were unable to press as effectively as they had in the first half and it was perhaps a surprise that Bristow waited until the 80th minute and made only one change.
However, with Jordace Holder-Spooner injured, Robbie Matthews was Town’s only striking option on the bench. While Ibe, Williams, Soares and Shaun McAuley were noticeably less influential, Matthews is a totally different player.
In the end, the combination of tired legs and a high defensive line almost cost the visitors a point as Montgomery put Junior Morias in behind, but a combination of David Ray and Louis Wells managed to avert the danger and the spoils were shared.
This was another game that Town played well enough to win, but once more they were let down by a lack of composure in the final third.
The tweaked formation worked well, as did the aggressive pressing game, but the visitors were unable to make their dominance count and fell away as tiredness kicked in late on.
As Bristow said, there were plenty of positives to take from the performance – but only one point.