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Basingstoke Town manager Jason Bristow determined to make passing game work
AS BASINGSTOKE Town prepare to get their season under way, manager Jason Bristow has reiterated his desire to get his team playing an attractive brand of football.
The Town boss is trying to develop a possession-based game at the Camrose, with defenders encouraged to play short passes into midfield rather than slinging hopeful balls forward.
The results have been somewhat mixed during pre-season. Basingstoke did very well in certain games, keeping the ball for long periods and scoring some excellent goals, but they struggled on other occasions, conceding possession in dangerous areas.
The latter is something they cannot afford to do on Saturday when they begin their Conference South campaign with a trip to Concord Rangers (3pm) – but Bristow, pictured, says that the change could have long-term benefits.
“What we have been doing has raised a few eyebrows in certain areas, but we want to move forward as a club, and that means moving forward on the pitch,” he said. “We are introducing things that we feel are right for the club and the players we have.”
One way Bristow will be hoping that playing an attractive brand of football can help the club to move forward is in crowd attendance. The town has shown an appetite for football when it comes to big games but, overall, crowds have been falling in recent years.
This is partly to do with the fact that Basingstoke are about to line up for their 17th consecutive season in the sixth tier of English football, with only a couple of FA Cup runs and a play-off semi-final to get really excited about.
However, the perceived standard of the Conference South also plays its part, and Bristow must be applauded for trying to make football at the Camrose more entertaining.
The question is, will Town be able to make a passing game work in such a competitive league, where pitches often resemble quagmires and direct play generally brings about results?
Only time will tell, but Bristow recognises that playing pretty football may not always work.
“Every game is different and there will be some throughout the season where the pace of the game is too quick and the ball is in the air a lot,” he said.
“We are not going to be able to pass it around in every game and we need to have the ability to mix it up. Sometimes we will have to wait for the game to open up before we can start playing the way we want to.”
An ability to grind out a result may be exactly what they need on Saturday, when they face a tricky trip to their newly-promoted opponents who won the Ryman Premier Division play-offs last season.
Bristow said: “They are going to be a strong, experienced side. It will be a tough game because they are on the crest of a wave after winning promotion.
“It’s their first game in this league and they are at home, so I expect them to come out firing on all cylinders. It’s up to us to weather that, find our feet and hopefully turn the tables.”
The 2012-13 season was a disappointing one for Town, who failed to build on their achievements at the end of the previous season, eventually finishing 14th after flirting with the relegation zone around Christmas.
However hopes are high that they will do better this season, despite the loss of strikers Delano Sam-Yorke and Tim Sills.
Sam-Yorke, who scored twice on his debut for Cambridge United on Sunday, will be a big loss, but Bristow has plugged the gap with the addition of Kezie Ibe and Robbie Matthews, two experienced Conference South players.
Elsewhere, Bristow has brought in more experience in the shape of goalkeeper Louis Wells, full-back Adam Green and midfielder Neil Barrett as he looks to get Town competing near the top of the table.
“Hopefully, we have got enough in us to challenge at the right end of the table,” he said. “We have brought in some experienced players who should help us in those tight games and we are looking more solid.
“We conceded too many soft goals last year and if we can cut that out, we should do well because we will create chances going forward.”
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