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Basingstoke Town 0 Bromley 1 - A Tactical View
THEY may have failed to score for a fifth consecutive game against Conference South opposition – but Basingstoke Town looked far more potent against Bromley and can count themselves unfortunate not to have got anything from the game.
Town were exceptional in the second half against the league leaders, dominating possession and territory despite playing into a strong wind and being reduced to 10 men for the last 23 minutes.
An inability to score goals remains a problem, but Town were at least unlucky on Saturday, hitting the post, seeing two efforts cleared off the line and also being denied by an excellent save by the Bromley goalkeeper.
Town manager Jason Bristow made three changes to the side that had lost at Chelmsford the week earlier. Kezie Ibe replaced Robbie Matthews in attack after scoring twice against Bournemouth Poppies in midweek, while an attacking move on the left saw Jordace Holder-Spooner come in for Simon Dunn.
The other change was enforced. With captain and midfield playmaker Wes Daly suspended, Bristow elected to stick with a 4-4-2 formation, with Andrew Jenkinson partnering Neil Barrett in the centre of the park.
Bromley also opted for a 4-4-2 formation.
They may have lined up in similar formations but the sides operated very different styles. Town continue to look to pass the ball out from defence, while Bromley were far more direct.
The visitors’ central midfielders very rarely received the ball with their backs to goal, their defenders attempting to find the front two with quick balls forward.
What they did well was get players forward quickly to support the front two, with their wingers always on hand to give the striker receiving the ball an option.
However, they found it difficult playing into what was a very strong wind as their kicks forward kept falling short of the front two.
The big question hanging over Town going into the game regarded how they would manage without Daly in midfield. The answer would be mixed. In some respects, he wasn’t missed, in others, he certainly was.
Jenkinson revelled in the opportunity to become the team’s playmaker. He rarely gave the ball away and was responsible for several incisive passes that created openings for his team-mates.
However, Daly is also important to Town defensively, providing a shield in front of the back four. Jenkinson is more of an attacking player and he failed to defend the space between defence and midfield as effectively.
Bromley’s Jay May kept dropping off to exploit the space between the lines, while the Town defence was too often forced to play a long ball forward as Jenkinson failed to give them the option of a pass into midfield.
All in all, the first half was not a great spectacle. Town used the wind to their advantage and were able to pin the visitors in, without really threatening, while Bromley struggled in open play but looked dangerous at set pieces.
However, it was the league leaders who went into the break ahead – scoring a goal that highlighted Town’s problems. Unable to find an easy pass into midfield, Jay Gasson was forced to hit a hopeful ball forward.
It was a poor clearance, lacking distance, and Bromley broke quickly, exploiting the gap between Town’s midfield and defence. A clever flick took Jenkinson out of the game and Bradley Goldberg was running at the home side’s back four.
There was an element of luck about the way the ball deflected up in the air for Pierre Joseph-Dubois to head home. However, the fact that both he and opposite winger Brandan Kiernan were in the penalty area illustrated Bromley’s desire to get men into scoring positions.
Things looked bleak for Town at half-time. They trailed the league leaders and faced playing the second period into the teeth of a strong win.
It would have been easy for the players to throw in the towel – but they showed excellent character and produced arguably their best 45 minutes of football so far this season despite mounting adversity.
They played at a noticeably higher tempo from the first whistle, keeping the ball well and getting men forward.
Bromley continued to play a direct game but struggled to cope with the assistance of the wind, with many passes flying straight through to Town goalkeeper Louis Wells.
The hosts also played their part in this though. Their high press starved Bromley of time to pick out the strikers, while a high defensive line forced them to play balls over the top, leaving them susceptible to the wind.
Seeing how things were going, the Bromley manager made a couple of changes in midfield, attempting to reduce the time Town’s players had on the ball in central areas.
Basingstoke were desperately unlucky not to level when Adam Green, a constant threat down the left, smashed a shot against the post, though Bromley did begin to look dangerous on the break.
Things got even tougher for the hosts on 67 minutes, when David Ray was shown a second yellow card after slipping as Town looked to play out from the back.
For a brief spell, Bromley looked set to run away with the game, but Town soon reorganised and despite being a man light, they were able to get back on top.
Bristow introduced Robbie Matthews, switched to an offensive 3-3-3 formation and watched his side create more chances.
However, they were unable to take them, while Bromley probably should have tied the game up on the break, with Wells and Green just about managing to keep their side in with a chance.
Town were bitterly disappointed to lose – and their wait for a goal goes on – but there were plenty of positives to take from the game.
Jenkinson was especially impressive in the centre of midfield, pushing his claims for a regular starting berth, while Holder-Spooner gives the team something out of the ordinary on the wing.
Far more good chances were created than has been the case of late and while there were a couple of times when the finishing could have been better, Town were also unlucky on several occasions.
Tempo seems to be the key for them at the moment. Keep it high and they are capable of dominating games, let it drop and they allow the opposition to get themselves organised defensively.
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