BASINGSTOKE Town maintained their unbeaten record in pre-season friendly matches with an emphatic victory away at Southern League Division One side Fleet Town last night.
Manager Jason Bristow used the game to give an extended run-out to his fringe players, and the team played extremely well for long spells, moving the ball quickly and attacking with purpose.
Having raced into a 3-0 lead before the half-hour mark, Town did allow their level to drop, something Bristow was not happy about, but they improved again in the closing stages and were comfortable throughout.
Starts were given to Adam Nditi, Marcus Johnson-Schuster, Kieran Maylen and Drew as the Town boss shuffled his pack, with Owusu and Argent leading the line in the absence of the injured Liam Enver-Marum.
Basingstoke began the game with a great tempo to their play. Simon Dunn had a couple of half-chances before creating the opening goal with an excellent through-ball for Flood, who rounded the Fleet goalkeeper before slotting home.
Town continued to dominate and doubled their lead after just 15 minutes, Owusu beating the ’keeper to a hopeful ball forward and passing the ball into the empty net to register his first goal in a Town shirt.
Fleet were unable to cope with the visitors’ snappy passing and quick movement. Flood could have had a second goal but headed over from a corner, while Nditi, who was a box of tricks all night, worked space for a shot but fired over.
It was an excellent run from Flood that created the third goal. He left two men standing with a fantastic turn before showing quick feet to beat a third defender. He then squared for Argent to slot home from around 10 yards.
Having taken complete control of the game, Town took their foot off the accelerator and allowed the hosts to get a foothold, but they were unable to create an opportunity of note before half-time.
The hosts continued to cause problems when the game restarted, with only some last-ditch defending and wayward finishing stopping them from pulling a goal back.
More good play from Flood resulted in him squaring for Argent, whose flicked finish was too close to the goalkeeper, while Drew did manage to add a fourth goal on 64 minutes, slotting home from the excellent Tom Bird’s low cross.
Fleet went close a couple more times, without really troubling Stuart Moore in the Town goal, but they did pull a goal back four minutes from time.
A move that began with Owusu being nutmegged by a central defender ended with Craig Stanley beating Moore from long range to deny the visitors a clean sheet.
Simon Moore – 6 out of 10
Not overly tested but controlled his area well. May feel he should have done better with Fleet’s late goal.
Marcus Johnson-Schuster – 6
Struggled to have an impact on the game, either from right-back in the first half or further forward after the break.
Adam Nditi – 7
Supremely skilful and excellent going forward, but he struggled defensively at times. Looked out of place in midfield during the second half.
Andrew Jenkinson – 8
The beating heart of Town’s passing game. Started attacks and protected the defence.
Jay Gasson – 7
Not really tested by Fleet but dealt with everything that came his way.
Kieran Maylen – 7
A solid performance from the young centre-back.
Simon Dunn – 8
Excellent during the opening 30 minutes, when Town won the game. Great energy and a top-class pass to set up the opening goal.
Chris Flood – 8 (Gazette Star Man)
Excelled despite being asked to play in a deeper midfield role. Good run and calm finish for his goal, while his dribble to set up the third goal was fantastic.
Julian Owusu – 7
Took his goal well but struggled to get involved in the game otherwise.
Sam Argent – 8
Full of energy, he worked hard to hurry defenders and took his goal well.
Josh Drew – 7
His best performance, capped with a goal, but Town already have better options in the positions he would like to play.
Robbie Rice (for Gasson 45) – 7
Another solid display from Rice, who is having an excellent pre-season.
Tom Bird (for Jenkinson 45) – 8
Another top performance from the left-back, who created problems every time he ventured forward.
Junior Strassa (for Dunn 45) – 4
Failed to protect the back four and continually gave the ball away. Hauled off after just 24 minutes.
Louie Soares (for Drew 69) – 6
A rare quiet game for the tricky midfielder.
Manny Williams (for Strassa 69) – 7
Didn’t look entirely comfortable in the deep-lying midfield role, but proved that he can do a job there.
Nathan Smart (for Flood 75) – 7
Decent cameo from the right-back, who looked to get forward at every opportunity.