SOCCER AM presenter Max Rushden was unable to prevent Basingstoke Town slipping to defeat on Saturday, a tired performance seeing the Dragons lose their final pre-season game to Woking.
The game marked the official launch of Basingstoke’s partnership with Soccer AM. Admission was free, with a bumper crowd of 1,090 turning out to watch the match and see some of the stars of the show.
Rushden even got the chance to play, coming off the bench for the last seven minutes. Town were two goals behind when he came on, Woking having found the net twice in the first half, but the Soccer AM presenter was on the field to witness Adam Nditi’s excellent consolation strike close up.
Town were forced into a late change before kick-off, as it was decided that Robbie Rice would not be risked in the centre of defence. With Kieran Maylen also out with a knock, left-back Tom Bird partnered Jay Gasson in the centre of defence, with Nditi playing at left-back.
Manny Williams then blasted a powerful shot wide after showing good feet on the left side of the area, but Woking then began to create chances. Stuart Moore parried Jordan Robinson’s low shot away, while only some desperate defending kept the visitors out when Nathan Smart gave the ball away in a bad area.
Town were still posing some problems, with Flood heading McAuley’s cross wide and Enver-Marum firing a free-kick into the side-netting, but it was the visitors who were in charge.
Richardson poked one chance wide at the near post, but Woking grabbed the lead on 28 minutes. Kieran Murtagh had the simple task of heading home from close range after Moore got caught under a cross from the left, with Town’s appeals for a foul on the goalkeeper falling on deaf ears.
Richardson failed to make the most of a chance to double the lead soon after, but John Goddard made no such mistake on 34 minutes. Woking broke quickly from a Town corner and the hosts were all over the place defensively, allowing Goddard the time and space to slot home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Basingstoke had a couple of shots on goal before the end of the half, but Williams fired over and Bird’s low free-kick found the side-netting as Woking went into the break two goals to the good.
Town went close to scoring a couple of times in the early stages of the second half, a good block denying McAuley and the ball spinning away from Enver-Marum.
Woking were content to sit back and defend their lead, and the hosts struggled to break them down. They looked tired following a fairly hectic pre-season schedule, with passes going astray and their attacks lacking pace.
Flood saw a shot deflected wide and Gasson headed a corner off-target, while Woking’s Rhys Beccles saw his angled drive roll across the face of goal and wide.
The game seemed to be petering out, but an injection of energy from Nditi ensured that the hosts got on the scoresheet with two minutes left. A burst of pace took him away from two Woking players and he continued his run, getting on the end of Enver-Marum’s neat back-heel and sweeping the ball home from the edge of the area to score a lovely goal.
Gasson almost found an equaliser late on, his header from a corner being blocked, but Woking substitute Scott Rendell, who grew up in Basingstoke, almost scored with the last kick of the game, nodding wide with the goal at his mercy.
Stuart Moore – 6 out of 10
Didn’t have too much to do, but got caught out of position for the opening goal.
Nathan Smart – 7
One of Town’s more impressive players. Showed great energy going forward and made some good tackles, but both Woking goals came down his side of the pitch.
Adam Nditi – 7
Not able to make much of an impression on the game and mistimed a couple of tackles, but scored a fantastic goal. Has the attributes to be a good winger or wide attacker, but not much of a defender.
Andrew Jenkinson – 7
Another one of Town’s better performers. Kept the ball well.
Jay Gasson – 7
Solid display from the centre-back. A threat from set-pieces.
Tom Bird – 6
Didn’t do much wrong, but looked slightly uncomfortable at centre-back.
Simon Dunn – 6
Unable to have an impact on the game.
Shaun McAuley – 6
Started the game brightly but became a peripheral figure.
Liam Enver-Marum – 7
A quiet game, but he showed his class with an excellent back-heel to set up Nditi’s goal.
Chris Flood – 6
Another player who made a bright start but faded out of the game.
Manny Williams – 7 (Gazette Star Man)
Caused Woking problems by taking up dangerous positions between the Woking defence and midfield. Some nice touches set up attacks.
Louie Soares (for Jenkinson 62min) – 6
No real impact on the game.
Julian Owusu (for Flood 75min) – 6
Little chance for the powerful striker to shine.
Max Rushden (for Williams 83min) – 6
Not much opportunity to make his mark. Looked a little off the pace of the game.
Subs (not used): Johnson-Schuster, Argent, Drew, Green.
Woking: Cole, Xapi (sub Sole 68min), Nutter (sub Newton 68min), Jones (sub Ricketts 54min), McNerney, Goddard (sub Brice 68min), Payne, Murtagh, Lewis (sub Rendell 60min), Hewitt (sub Beccles 68min), Richardson (sub Nelson-Addy 60min). Sub (not used): Howe.