IN A STRANGE game at The Soccer AM Stadium, Basingstoke Town and Sutton United shared four goals in a tight opening 60 minutes, but neither side could find a winner when things opened up later on.

Sutton were the better side on the day, but Town went ahead twice and defended pretty well to ensure that they claimed a point as the visitors piled on the pressure in the closing stages.


Town continued to be without striker Liam Enver-Marum, who is looking a more important player with every game he misses. Left-back Tom Bird, arguably their best player of the season so far, sat the game out through suspension, as did midfielder Jamie Brown.

Andrew Jenkinson replaced Bird at left-back, while the fit-again Simon Dunn replaced Brown, playing at the point of a midfield diamond, with James Harper at the base.

Sutton operated a 4-1-4-1 system at the start of the game, with Glen Southam patrolling the space in front of their defence and Jamie White ploughing a lone furrow in attack.

A slow start

The teams seemed to be feeling each other out in the early stages, with little intensity in the game. Sutton did press the ball pretty well, preventing Town playing the ball out from defence and forcing the hosts into a more direct approach, which suited the visitors’ big centre-backs more than it did Chris Flood and Manny Williams.

There were a couple of interesting things to note about the opening goal of the game, scored by Williams.

First of all, the move leading up to it was the first time that the hosts had managed to move the ball forward in a controlled way and at pace. They caught Sutton on the break, with several players involved before Flood’s cross almost forced Sutton’s Charlie Clough into an own goal.

The goal itself came from a corner. It was a soft goal to concede from a Sutton point of view, though Williams did well to finish, but it was the first and last time that Town really threatened from a dead ball.

They actually won quite a few corners and free-kicks over the course of the match, but in general, the delivery into the area was poor and they were unable to capitalise.

Going behind spurs Sutton on

Sutton reacted to the disappointment of going behind in good way, putting Town under pressure. The hosts looked especially vulnerable to the direct running of Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick and Bedsente Gomis.

Not enough pressure was being put on in midfield, allowing Sutton players to pick a pass or turn and drive at Harper and the Town defence.

The visitors played with a very high defensive line and their team seemed to be divided equally into two parts. The defenders and Southam rarely got forward, which gave the remaining players licence to get forward and put Town under pressure when in possession.

There was very little space for Town work with when looking to play out from defence and they found themselves penned in on their own 18-yard line.

As the half went on, they also seemed to mirror Basingstoke’s midfield diamond, pushing Craig Dundas forward, a move that further limited the hosts’ ability to pass the ball out of defence.

However, while Sutton were on top, they found it hard to break down a resolute Town defence until they made a mistake. Their equaliser was a well-worked effort, but Ricky Wellard made the most of Shaun McAuley being dragged infield to pick up the ball in space on the left, drive into the area and fire home.

Sutton’s hard work was soon undone as they conceded another sloppy goal minutes later, Williams being given the freedom of the penalty area to volley home Jay Gasson’s knock-down.

Town forced into a change

The half-time withdrawal of Gasson resulted in a defensive reshuffle for the hosts and the second half began as the first had ended, with Sutton on top.

While Jenkinson did a decent job at left-back, Town missed Bird, not only in terms of his attacking potency but also from corners, which the hosts continued to fail to threaten from in the second half.

Sutton’s second goal was a little fortuitous, with the ball rebounding off Louie Soares and straight to White. Town were caught short at the back and failed to track the run of Gomis, who finished well.

Basingstoke manager Jason Bristow’s response was to introduce the quicksilver Lloyd Macklin and switch to a 4-3-3 formation, looking to exploit the space in behind the Sutton defence.

However, Town found themselves penned in, meaning the balls forward were coming from too deep for Macklin to get clear. Bristow tried to remedy this by bringing defender Ryan Case on as a makeshift target man, but he wasn’t really able to have an impact.

Sutton ended the game on top, but Town continued to defend pretty well. Sutton’s best opportunity came from an individual error, Nathan Smart’s wayward pass putting Billy Medlock through, but Stuart Moore came to the rescue and they actually saw the closing stages out with little incident.


It’s a difficult game to analyse from a Basingstoke point of view. They led twice, so in theory at least, they should have been disappointed not to have gone on and won the game.

However, the goals apart, Town struggled in terms of creativity. In fact, the goals were their only real shots of note, while Sutton created more, hitting the post and forcing Stuart Moore into a couple of good saves.

The visitors were also able to pin Basingstoke back for periods, without creating masses of clear chances as the hosts defended pretty well.

On reflection, and considering that Town were without Bird and Enver-Marum and lost Gasson at half-time, it was probably a point gained against a strong side. Having stopped the rot by beating Whitehawk in the FA Trophy a week earlier, it was important that they didn’t lose, and the character shown in holding on for a draw should give their confidence another boost.