BASINGSTOKE Town may have what appears to be a simple run of fixtures in February, but as Maidenhead United proved at The Soccer AM Stadium on Saturday, there are no easy games in the Vanarama Conference South.

The visitors arrived in Basingstoke with a plan to stop Town by playing an extremely aggressive pressing game, led by strikers David Tarpey and Tashan Adeyinka.

It worked to a degree. Basingstoke were unable to get into a passing rhythm and Maidenhead kept winning the ball in dangerous areas, but it also left the visitors exposed defensively, allowing Town to outscore their opponents.


It was not a surprise to see Basingstoke line up with the same midfield diamond formation that had served them so well during the previous week’s win at Boreham Wood.

Maidenhead’s formation was somewhere between 4-4-2 and a diamond. Ashley Nicholls anchored the midfield and Danny Green looked to support the strikers, but the other two midfielders stayed relatively wide.

Maidenhead set their stall out to press

The visitors’ game-plan was clear from the very first minute. Tarpey and Adeyinka put pressure on Town’s back four whenever they got the ball, while Green looked to stop the first pass being played into James Harper.

In many ways, it worked really well. The visitors not only forced Town to go more direct than they would have liked, they also won the ball back in dangerous areas on several occasions.

A good example of this was their second goal. Tarpey, who was really lively throughout the first half, nicked the ball off Nathan Smart from a Town throw before crossing for Adeyinka to head home.

In general, the hosts were unable to get into any sort of passing rhythm. Liam Enver-Marum was unable to keep possession, trying too much at times, meaning that the ball kept coming back at the Town defence.

Having said that, Basingstoke lead 3-2 at half-time, so it clearly wasn’t all one-way traffic.

Maidenhead’s Achilles heel was their defence, and more specifically their centre-backs. The last time I saw Jacob Erskine play, he was an unfit striker. On Saturday, he looked just as unfit, but he was playing in the heart of the Maidenhead defence.

His partner was Simon Downer. He’s a decent player who has spent the last few seasons at Sutton, but he too looked horribly out of shape.

Maidenhead’s aggressive pressing game forced the defence to hold a high line, squeezing the space and preventing Town’s midfielders from getting on the ball. It also left Erskine and Downer exposed to pace in behind them.

Town’s first two goals came as a result of Smart, who had a really mixed day, running into the space behind left-back Leon Solomon. His pace had Erskine and Downer running towards their own goal and on both occasions they were caught wrong-footed when the ball was delivered into the box, resulting in clearances that didn’t make it out of the area.

The other two goals in the first half were down to poor defending rather than anything tactical. Basingstoke failed to deal with a hopeful ball forward just after they had opened the scoring, while the winner was the result of the visitors switching off from a free-kick.

Town sit too deep

After an incredibly open first half, the game inevitably slowed down a bit after the break.

For a start, Tarpey and Adeyinka had spent the entirety of the first half running at practically full tilt to close down the Town defence. Unsurprisingly, they couldn’t keep it up after the interval and the visitors were forced to use one of their substitutions to introduce fresh legs.

This was the point at which Town should have made things comfortable, using the extra space to play the ball into midfield. However, they were still unable to find their passing rhythm, with too many balls going astray.

They also invited pressure by defending deeper and deeper. Maidenhead should have scored at least once, but all three of the clear chances they created came as a result of shots from 25 yards, allowed as the defence sat off and the midfielders failed to get close enough to their men.

Town did break dangerously on several occasions and could have had a couple of penalties, but with the deficit at a single goal, Maidenhead were very much in the game right up to the final whistle.


Town didn’t play well, but they won the game. Above anything else, that is the positive to take.

They won’t be able to get away with it every week and will be determined to put in better performances in the future, but they cannot be on top of their game all of the time and still claiming three points from those games will be vital if they are to challenge for the title.

On paper, Basingstoke have a really good run-in, but as Maidenhead showed, every team in the league are capable of causing them real problems if Town are not at the top of their game.

It will be interesting to see whether Maidenhead employ the same aggressive press when Town travel to Berkshire next Tuesday. It was a double-edged sword, with the tactic causing both Basingstoke and themselves problems.

If they do, Town could get around it by altering their shape slightly, asking one of the other midfielders to drop deep and give the defenders an extra passing option. If they can find a way to pass the ball around Maidenhead’s front three, the game will be there for the taking.

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