A TERRIBLE pitch and a blustery wind were a recipe for a pretty awful game, but the good news for Basingstoke Town was that they were able to claim a hard-earned point.

Basingstoke struggled to create much in the way of chances on a hard and uneven surface. It looked like it was going to be another bad day at the office, but they kept going until the end and were rewarded when a clumsy challenge gifted them a penalty in the closing stages.

Chelmsford looked slightly more dangerous, particularly in the second half, when Town goalkeeper Stuart Moore made a couple of key saves to prevent his side going two goals down.


Basingstoke changed formations again, switching to a back three. Jay Gasson made his first appearance after three months out with a toe injury, coming in for Manny Williams, while Shaun McAuley replaced Louie Soares in midfield.

In the absence of the suspended Nathan Smart, Robbie Rice played as a wing-back, while Lloyd Macklin continued alongside Liam Enver-Marum in attack.

Chelmsford lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with central midfielders Harry Hickford and Mark Hughes playing quite deep, allowing wingers Rohdell Gordon and Mason Spence to raid forward.

A scrappy start

The game didn’t provide much in the way of entertainment throughout, with the feel of an end-of-season encounter between two sides with little to play for.

Of course, this was far from the truth. Town were desperate to win in order to maintain their promotion push, while Chelmsford needed three points to give them an outside chance of finishing in the top six, so both sides had plenty of motivation.

There was plenty of perspiration from both teams, but very little in the way of inspiration, mainly due to factors outside the players’ control.

The pitch was the main problem. Having cut up over the winter, it had dried quickly, meaning it was incredibly uneven. Players were unable to trust the bounce of the ball, meaning they had to take extra touches, if they were able to control it at all, allowing opponents to close them down and slowing the pace of the game down.

It was a problem that really affected Town’s attacking options. All three of the forward-thinking midfielders that they employed during the game, Simon Dunn, McAuley and Soares, are players who use close control and quick passes to keep the ball moving.

With the ball bobbling around as it came into them, they were unable to play their normal game and Town were unable to get beyond the midfield third.

The pace of Macklin gave them the option to lob long balls over the defence for him to chase, especially as they had the wind behind them. They got some joy with this tactic, but it didn’t lead to any really clear chances and more often than not, it resulted in Chelmsford getting the ball back.

Speaking to Tom Bird yesterday, he threw up an additional explanation for the lack of tempo in the game.

Chelmsford’s pitch is surrounded by a running track, which means that it takes several seconds to return the ball every time it goes out for a throw. That time allows teams to regroup defensively and everyone is marked when the throw comes to be taken, slowing the game down further.

Chelmsford grab the lead

Speaking to me after the match, Town manager Jason Bristow said he felt his side were in control during the first half. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I can see where he’s coming from.

For the most part, the game was played in the middle third of the pitch, with both sides struggling to create openings. Basingstoke only really threatened the goal once, James Harper heading too close to the goalkeeper, while Chelmsford had a couple more openings, mainly on the break.

They also managed to score, but there will be questions asked of Town’s defending. A simple flick from a throw took McAuley, Bird and Harper out of the game, allowing Jack Bridge to find space between the visitors’ defence and midfield.

Rob Dickie was forced to move out of position to put him under pressure, but he slipped and Bridge lobbed the ball into the space behind him.

Rice, who didn’t look comfortable as a wing-back, was outpaced by Gordon, and his clever flick just evaded David Ray, who was also out of the game after failing to get a boot on the ball.

Cheek gambled on Ray failing to clear, but Gasson didn’t, failing to pick up the striker’s run and giving him a clear run at goal.

Watching it back, it was a pretty good goal, but one that Town could have prevented.

The pattern continues

The tempo of the game did not improve much after the break and apart from a dramatic five-minute spell totally out of keeping with the rest of the match, where both teams went close to scoring, it was more of the same.

There were a total of five chances during this hectic spell around the hour and the nature of them sum up the game as a whole.

McAuley latched onto a defensive error but was denied by the goalkeeper, while Macklin fired just over after blocking a clearance. Gasson also went close from a corner, while Town goalkeeper Stuart Moore made a good save to keep out a free-kick and then kept out an angled drive after Gasson had been caught in possession.

None of the chances were the results of clever play. Three came from defensive errors, while the other two were set-pieces.

Bristow looked to change the course of the game by making all of his substitutions, switching to a midfield diamond, but issues surrounding the pitch still looked like they would get the better of the visitors.

Fortunately for them, a rash challenge from Robert Girdlestone gave Williams the chance to make up for the previous week’s penalty miss and level from the spot.


Town will have travelled to Chelmsford looking for three points, but considering the state of the pitch and the way the game panned out, it’s most definitely a point gained.

The visitors struggled badly with the conditions, but they kept going to the final minutes and got their reward. This is exactly the sort of game that Town would have lost in recent seasons, so coming back to claim a draw can be seen as a real positive heading into a 10-day break.

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