IT’S a story only too familiar to Basingstoke Town fans.

A team plays pretty well and creates a number of chances, but are unable to take any of them and end up being beaten by a late sucker-punch.

For the past few years, Basingstoke have been on the receiving end of many such results. At Wealdstone on Saturday, it was their turn to win a game despite being second-best for long spells.


Despite being without the suspended Manny Williams, Town continued to operate a midfield diamond. Jamie Brown played at the base, protecting the back four, with Simon Dunn, who had been used in that role, replacing Williams in the hole behind the strikers.

Wealdstone employed a very cautious 4-5-1 formation, with wingers Shaun Lucien and Joe Turner charged with supporting lone striker Scott McGleish.

Space on the flanks

With a total of seven players (four from Basingstoke, three from Wealdstone) occupying the centre of the park, it was almost inevitable that play would become very congested in that area.

It was clear from the early stages that control of the flanks would be crucial, and the hosts should have had a natural advantage.

The nature of Town’s shape meant that they were reliant on full-backs Tom Bird and Nathan Smart getting forward to provide width, while Wealdstone had two men on each side.

This seemed to be a problem as early as the first minute, when left winger Turner was allowed to run almost the length of the pitch, but the hosts were unable to take advantage.

They had the right idea, with the wingers staying fairly high, looking to get in behind Town’s full-backs when they advanced forward, but they didn’t see it through.

The home full-backs stayed very deep, giving Smart and especially Bird, who was probably the visitors’ most influential player in the first half, space to cross the ball from deep.

Going forward, they were unable to get their wingers into the game, with long balls forward directed towards an isolated McGleish.

Wealdstone’s overly cautious approach

Part of the home side’s problem in the first half was that they were a bit too cautious, perhaps giving league leaders Basingstoke a bit too much respect.

Their full-backs barely got forward at all, meaning that they failed to overload Town down the wings, while none of their central midfielders really up to support lone striker McGleish.

McGleish was left isolated throughout the half, with nobody near enough to latch on to his flicks when he did manage to win high balls against Town’s centre-backs.

Wealdstone needed to build play a bit more patiently, to give their midfielders the chance to get up and support the striker, but faced with Basingstoke’s aggressive pressing game, they were too often reduced to throwing long balls forward.

Simon Dunn impresses higher up the field

It was a scrappy first half, but Basingstoke shaded it, with Dunn impressing in a more advanced position.

He has done a decent job anchoring the midfield in recent weeks, but on Saturday he showed why he is such an asset higher up the pitch, taking up positions where Wealdstone found it difficult to pick him up.

In addition to receiving the ball on the half-turn and setting up attacks, he also drifted into wide areas, especially down the left, finding space to get off a couple of shots.

A change of shape helps Wealdstone to get on top

Basingstoke may have had the better of the first half, but they did not play well and were unable to keep possession as they would have liked.

They struggled even more in the second half, thanks in part to a tactical switch from the hosts, who pushed Turner up alongside McGleish and shifted to a 4-4-2 formation.

McGleish had somebody alongside him to latch on to flicks and knock-downs, allowing Wealdstone to retain possession in the Basingstoke half and get dangerous winger Lucien into the game.

As a result, the home side began to win the battle down the flanks, forcing Town’s full-backs to become far more defensive. Bird, in particular, had his hands full with Lucien, whose work down the right created several opportunities and stopped the Basingstoke left-back getting forward.

The tactical switch should have given Town an advantage in the centre of midfield, but their passing was off and they kept giving the ball away.

Jamie Brown had a mixed game. He protected the back four well, but poor passes stopped his team in their tracks on several occasions and it was clear to see why Dunn has been preferred in this role.

Jason Bristow’s response was to replace the ineffective Shaun McAuley with Lloyd Macklin and switch to a 4-3-3 formation, but the change had little bearing on the pattern of the game, with the front three seeing very little of the ball.

Wealdstone made two strange substitutions, replacing wingers Dan Brown and Lucien, who had seemed to be their most dangerous players.

In the end though, they were punished for failing to make the most of their good play and take their chances. Louie Soares provided Town’s one good delivery of the match from an injury-time corner and David Ray popped up to head home.


For the third or fourth game running, Town managed to find a way to win despite not playing at their best.

This is undoubtedly a good thing, the mark of champions, some might say. However, it’s probably not sustainable to pinch results like this every week, and Bristow will be looking for an improvement in performance, particularly when it comes to passing, sooner rather than later.

It was a game that Wealdstone probably should have won. There’s not much that their manager can do if his players continue to miss chances, but a little more of an adventurous approach, particularly in the first half, may have reaped rewards.