BASINGSTOKE Town and Bromley went toe-to-toe at The Soccer AM Stadium on Saturday, with the visitors emerging as narrow winners at the end of a really good game.

Both teams looked to play a possession-based passing game, trying to work the ball up the pitch using short passes rather than taking a more direct approach.

Bromley were the better side in the first half, with Basingstoke manager Jason Bristow admitting after the game that his side had shown their visitors too much respect, but Town improved after the break and could easily have snatched a draw.


Bristow stuck with the 3-5-2 formation he has been operating for the past month and his only change came in attack, where Liam Enver-Marum replaced Manny Williams.

Bromley fielded four players they had only signed in the days leading up to the game in a very narrow 4-2-3-1 formation, with Anthony Cook, Moses Ademola and Bradley Goldberg behind target-man Ben May.

Town sit too deep

Basingstoke began the game sitting quite deep, with 10 or 11 men behind the ball. This should have made them hard to break down, but Bromley were able to create plenty of chances in the opening stages and would have gone ahead had their finishing been better.

When sitting deep, teams usually look to prevent the ball being passed into midfield, effectively allowing the opposition defenders to have the ball. However, Town not only sat off the Bromley back four, they also failed to get close enough to Ali Fuseini and Reece Prestledge, the visitors’ deep-lying midfielders.

As a result, they were too often allowed to collect the ball from the back four, turn and attract pressure from the Town midfield before threading the ball through for their trio of attacking midfielders.

Cook and Ademola, Bromley’s nominal wide men, were given licence to roam, often coming inside to outnumber James Harper, who was left exposed as Louie Soares and Shaun McAuley tried to close down Fuseini and Prestledge.

Cook and Ademola also caused problems when they took up wide positions, putting good balls into the area for big striker Ben May, who was able to get to their crosses despite being up against three centre-backs.

When defending, Bromley were content to allow Town’s defenders to have the ball, but they did a better job of stopping them passing it into midfield.

However, there was scope for Basingstoke to have success playing early passes in behind the visitors’ defence, something illustrated by the chance that fell to McAuley shortly before he scored, when Robbie Rice’s ball over the top found the midfielder in behind the defence.

Town’s opening goal came somewhat against the run of play and owed a lot to Chris Flood. The striker hasn’t been scoring as many goals as he would have liked recently, but he never stops working for the team.

He did really well to win the ball and turn in midfield before feeding McAuley, whose excellent first touch took him into space, allowing him to fire off a shot that the Bromley goalkeeper was unable to keep out.

Sadly for Basingstoke, the lead only lasted four minutes. David Ray, the central of Town’s three centre-backs, found it difficult to mark May throughout and his push on the striker gave Bromley a free-kick that they took full advantage of.

However, questions probably need to be asked of the Town wall. Cook’s free-kick was a good one, but either the wall hadn’t been lined up correctly or the shot should have been blocked, as there was no great height on the kick and it went in the side of the goal that the wall was supposed to protect.

The rest of the half was fairly even, with Bromley unable to turn their possession into chances and Town failing to get enough men into the area when they made some dangerous breaks.

Decision making in the final third lets Town down

The second half got off to the worst possible start for Basingstoke, who went behind in the early stages. Stuart Moore should have kept Cook’s strike from distance out, but the winger was undoubtedly given too much time to set his sights.

Nathan Smart was the player who should have been closer to him, but the fact that he wasn’t was down to Bromley’s fluidity.

Cook began the move that led to the goal in a central position before drifting out to the left, where Smart picked him up. Smart’s mistake was to be drawn to May, who had taken up a position on the left touchline, when Cook passed him the ball. May immediately played a return pass, leaving Smart out of position and giving Cook the space to let fly.

Having gone behind, Town managed to get on top, not allowing Bromley as much time on the ball and causing their opponents problems.

They created several decent openings, but struggled to make the right decision in the final third, shooting when they should have been looking to pass and trying one pass too many when the shot was on.

Bromley also defended well, but they rode their luck at times. Town had two goals ruled out by tight offside decisions, while goalkeeper Alan Julian was forced to make two good saves towards the end.


Speaking to supporters after the game, the general feeling seemed to be that the better team had won the game. I’m not so sure.

There really wasn’t much between the sides. Yes, Bromley created a couple more chances, but at the end of the day, it was a goalkeeping error, one of very few made by Moore this season, that decided the game.

If Town play like that every week, with a slight improvement in the final third, they will win a lot more games that they lose this season.

However, their job is being made harder with the teams around them in the table signing new players.

Ebbsfleet have sparked something of a merry-go-round in the division. They are spending big in an attempt to win promotion – and their changes are having a knock-on effect.

The Kent side’s new players are coming from a higher level, but they are replacing good Conference South players, who are being allowed to join other clubs.

Cook, who scored both of Bromley’s goals, was making his debut having signed from Ebbsfleet, while May, another good player at this level, has also joined Bromley from their Kent rivals.

This weekend, Town travel to face a Boreham Wood side featuring Darryl McMahon, another established Conference South player who has been allowed to leave Ebbsfleet.

Overall, it could be argued that Bromley’s new signings tipped the balance. Not only did Cook score both goals but Julian, who made one especially good save late on, also joined the club last week.

Goldberg, who was the league’s player-of-the-season last year, has also rejoined Bromley until the end of the campaign, so they are significantly stronger now than they were two weeks ago.

It would undoubtedly be a disappointment if Town were unable to reach the play-offs this season, but Bristow does not have the same sort of money available to him. While the sides around them are strengthening, Town can only stand still, so finishing in the top five could prove to be a difficult task.