CHRIS Flood stole the headlines, but it was a change of formation that allowed Basingstoke Town to dominate Boreham Wood on a tactical level throughout Saturday’s game in Hertfordshire.

Town manager Jason Bristow’s decision to switch from a 3-5-2 formation to a midfield diamond paid off in a big way, with his side making the Vanarama Conference South leaders look ordinary for long periods.


Having spent the last month with a back three, Bristow made the decision to revert to a formation that had served Town so well earlier in the season.

With a trip to the league leaders coming up, it was a brave move to make, with a forward, Manny Williams, replacing Robbie Rice, a defender. The result was a return to a flat back four behind a narrow midfield diamond, with James Harper at the base and Williams just behind the strikers.

Boreham Wood lined up in a 4-4-2 shape, but with their wingers pushing on and their central midfielders playing a bit deeper.

Good defending frustrates hosts early on

Despite the final scoreline, it was the home side who began the game on the front foot.

Their full-backs were not particularly adventurous, but their wingers, Matthew Whichelow and Ricky Shakes, were given licence to play high up the pitch and come inside, picking up the ball from playmaker Daryl McMahon.

Their strikers looked to drop deep, receiving the ball into feet, and they played some clever football around the area, but Town defended pretty well. The centre-backs kept tight to their men, preventing them from turning, and apart from a chance that Whichelow probably should have done better with, the home side were restricted to shots from long range.

In an attacking sense, Town were unable to get much going in the early stages. Full-backs Tom Bird and Nathan Smart, the players tasked with providing width, were kept busy by the home side’s wingers.

However, the situation would have been far worse had Town been playing with three centre-backs. In that scenario, Town could have easily found themselves pegged back, with essentially five men in defence.

As it was, once they had seen off the early pressure, Town were able to overload their hosts in midfield, getting time to pick their heads up and play dangerous through-balls.

Liam Enver-Marum was key to this. With him in the team, Basingstoke have the option of getting the ball forward a bit earlier.

He was able to hold up the ball, bringing the midfielders into play before spinning and looking to get in behind Boreham Wood’s high defensive line.

Their first two goals came from this route. Williams played Enver-Marum through to square for Flood to open the scoring, while Shaun McAuley’s inch-perfect pass picked out Enver-Marum to double the lead.

The third goal came about after Williams was fouled in a dangerous area, again as a result of the hosts being stretched in midfield.

Boreham Wood unable to change the pattern of the game

With his side trailing by three goals at the break, it was perhaps a surprise that Boreham Wood manager Ian Allinson didn’t make any changes.

I suppose there are two ways to approach such a situation. You either make changes to shake things up, or you give the players responsible for the first-half deficit a chance to make amends.

Allinson clearly went for the latter, but he also decided to maintain the same shape. As expected, the hosts looked to get on the front foot early in the second half, but they encountered the same problems they had before the break.

Despite having a three-goal lead to defend, Town did not take their foot off the accelerator, with McAuley and Louie Soares working particularly hard in midfield.

The fourth goal, excellently taken by Flood, who looked back to his clinical best, killed the game off, but still Town didn’t relax.

Bristow made his only really meaningful change with 20 minutes to go, replacing Flood with Lloyd Macklin. Williams was pushed further forward, into a front three, with Macklin working the channels, looking to exploit the gaps left by Boreham Wood as they pushed on looking for a consolation goal.

The hosts finally changed things in the closing stages, bringing on Graeme Montgomery. He caused problems, taking up positions that made him difficult to mark and getting shots away, but still the hosts were limited to efforts from long range.


In his post-match interview, Bristow indicated that representatives from Boreham Wood had been watching Town regularly.

How much of a part that played in his decision to change formations is unclear, but opting for a midfield diamond was key for Town.

The hosts will have gone into the game thinking that stopping Bird and Smart was half of the battle. They did a good job penning those two back, but the change in formation left them hopelessly outnumbered in the middle of the park.

Enver-Marum’s performance was also key. His hold-up play gave Town a focal point for their attacks and he occupied the defence, giving Flood space in which to work.

Basingstoke struggled when Enver-Marum was out injured. It’s vital that they keep him fit for the remainder of the season.

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