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Basingstoke Town v Havant and Waterlooville - A Tactical View
AN INCREDIBLY tight FA Trophy tie was decided by a single goal over the course of 180 minutes, Sahr Kabba’s moment of brilliance 11 minutes into Monday night’s replay earning Havant and Waterlooville a place in the second round.
The games may not have been full of incident but there was plenty of tactical intrigue. The sides played similar shapes in both matches but differed in outlook and style, making for some interesting match-ups.
Both teams started both games in 4-4-2 formations, with Havant using the same 11 players at the start of both matches.
Basingstoke made two changes to the side that had started against Ebbsfleet. Shaun McAuley was over his bout of sickness and replaced Robbie Rice, with Nathan Smart reverting to right-back, while Kezie Ibe came in for Robbie Matthews for Saturday’s game, with the big striker taking back his place on Monday.
Game one at the Camrose
Town boss Jason Bristow revealed after the game that his decision to field Ibe in place of Matthews was based on seeing Havant play a high defensive line against Chelmsford City a few days earlier.
The idea was to use Ibe’s pace in behind the Havant back line, but the visitors came out with a very cautious outlook, sitting deep and looking to hit Town on the counter-attack.
Basingstoke did the opposite. They played at a high tempo and looked to press the ball, operating a high defensive line.
The result was something of a stalemate.
Town had plenty of the ball but were unable to get into areas where they could hurt the visitors. Havant were happy for the Basingstoke back four to have the ball but closed down effectively whenever a pass went into midfield.
The visitors were more direct and looked dangerous on the break, with the pace of Kabba a constant threat. However, they were unable to get their dangerous wingers into the game.
Having seen Havant sit deep in the first half, Bristow made the decision to introduce Matthews at half-time. However, Havant completely changed their strategy at the break, playing a much higher defensive line.
With both sides looking to get forward, the game became very open, with the teams taking it in turns to have spells of pressure.
One goal always looked likely to settle the contest but when one was not forthcoming, both sides backed off slightly in the closing stages.
Replay at Westleigh Park
Havant made a strong start on home soil, controlling the tempo of the game for the opening 11 minutes, when Kabba’s moment of brilliance decided the tie.
However, having snatched the lead, Havant allowed Town to take charge. The remainder of the game followed a similar pattern to the first half at the Camrose, with Basingstoke dominating possession and territory.
Once again, Town’s problem was in the final third. They had a total of 13 shots during the game, but most of them, including Wes Daly’s blockbuster effort that hit the crossbar, came from outside the area.
Havant defended well, forcing Town to attack down the middle, a problem exacerbated by the visitors’ lack of natural width in midfield.
Both Shaun McAuley and Simon Dunn would rather be playing in the centre of the park. They tend to drift inside, rather than looking to attack full-backs and get crosses into the box.
As a result of that, Matthews, who thrives on crosses, was little more than a bystander and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Jordace Holder-Spooner with 15 minutes to go.
He looked sharp when he came on, providing the pace and direct threat Town had been missing. It would not be a surprise if he was given a starting spot for the next game, either on the wing or in attack.
Havant were forced into a change early in the second half and made an interesting tactical switch, asking Nanetti to play behind the strikers and stick close to Town playmaker Daly.
It didn’t work and the visitors enjoyed their best spell of the match as Nanetti, who offered little over the two games, ran around chasing shadows.
He and Kabba were replaced with 20 minutes to go as Havant shut up shop, switching to 4-5-1. It was a risky strategy but it worked and it was the hosts who had the better chances late on, breaking through Oli as Town threw men forward.
As Bristow said after the match, Town’s defeat was in equal parts down to bad luck and the lack of a killer instinct in front of goal.
It was similar to the defeat against Hayes and Yeading earlier in the season and shows that while Town look to have solved their defensive issues, problems remain going forward.
It’s in games like this that Town really miss Delano Sam-Yorke’s ability to create a chance, either for himself or a team-mate, out of nothing.
Havant have a similar player in Kabba – and he won them the tie.
Holder-Spooner is capable of doing that job for Basingstoke and it will be interesting to see how he gets on when he is awarded a place in the team.
The other alternative may be to bring in another striker. Greg Draper has been strongly linked with a return to the Camrose but while he is an excellent finisher, he does not provide the x-factor Town seem to be missing.
Sam-Yorke has been reduced to the role of a bit-part player at Cambridge United. Would he agree to a return to Basingstoke on loan?
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