Basingstoke Town 1 – 2 Kings Lynn Saturday 18th November 2017
The wrong Plan A and no sign of a Plan B all afternoon.
Football is a game where the final score defines the wisdom, or otherwise, of your tactics.
And, league leaders notwithstanding, and much though I like and respect him overall, I think the Manager got the tactics wrong here today as Basingstoke Town succumbed 1-2 to a no more then strong, functional, patient, and experienced Kings Lynn Town outfit.
On a bitterly cold and gloomy mid-November afternoon Terry Brown decided to stick with the exact same line up and formation as the one that had brushed aside a poor Biggleswade Town a week earlier.
Colm McAdden was in goal, Marcus Johnston-Schuster was right back, George Bennett was left back, the centre backs were Shane Hollamby and Guri Demuria, Dan Collier and Charlie Kennedy were holding midfield, Ben Wright was in the hole and the two Sams (Argent and Smart) were either side of big target man Callum Bunting up top.
However, with Wright pushing forward and making a negligible midfield contribution, it seemed more like a 4-2-4 leaving Kennedy and Collier hopelessly overrun in the centre of the park.
We made a bright enough start and in the very first minute a Wright free kick from the left was met by a Hollamby header which their keeper saved.
Smart and Argent were looking lively the first five too.
But, though they weren’t yet exploiting the gaping holes in the middle of the park, slowly but surely King’s Lynn began to assert.
Their full backs got forward well, our full backs struggled to contain them and the visitors won corners in the sixth and ninth minutes.
Those fortunately came to nothing but in the 11th minute they burst through on the left and McAdden had to save low at his near post.
A third corner.
A minute later Demuria, who along with Hollamby played well, with little or no help from the full backs, blocked a shot from the left.
Patient King’s Lynn, now well on top, continued to press.
15 in and they won a free kick on the right.
Two minutes later they won another – this time producing a low ball in and and shot over the bar.
And in the 22nd minute yet another corner.
We were weathering a perpetual storm, the manful resistance couldn’t last and it didn’t.
In the 25th minute, Johnston Schuster, poor today, was initially slow to react, then made a rash late challenge as his man cut inside across him, brought him down and the referee adjudged the challenge to be inside the area and gave a penalty.
McAdden was sent the wrong way and we were deservedly 0-1 down.
Kings Lynn were all over us and a minute later a ball in from the right was just cleared then a shot from distance hit the inside of the post with McAdden beaten.
We tried to get back into it but too many long balls were failing to hit ineffective target-man Bunting and Wright’s touch was letting him down too.
In the 31st minute from a quick break the visitors won another corner.
Then yet another on 37.
We couldn’t seem to fashion anything, Bennett’s passing was noticeably poor and he was again less than committed in the tackle.
Just before half time the industrious Kennedy won a free kick, but nothing came of of it.
Half time and we had offered so little.
Surely the Manager would change it?
Take off either Bunting or Wright, bring on McKnight and at least switch to 4-3-3 and start to try to build the play instead of ineffective long balls?
Surely Leslie Sackey or Tim Wohlfiel would replace Bennett, subbed at half time last week and frankly far worse this week the first 45?
But no, same line up and shape and initially the Manager was vindicated.
Because, four minutes in and totally against the run of play, Argent challenged the keeper for a Demuria ball over the top, the keeper had his arms round him, and failed to gather the ball.
Bunting was on hand to follow up and finish which is just as well as the referee had no intention of giving the penalty.
It was frankly an equaliser we didn’t deserve and the football gods clearly agreed as parity didn’t last long.
Three minutes later, yet another corner to them was cleared and a cross back in from the right drew a header which hit the bar and the rebound was slotted home to restore the visitors’ advantage.
We almost immediately responded as, in the 53rd minute, Argent set Bennett, who put in a decent cross for once but Kennedy’s header was disappointingly off target.
With Kings Lynn now happy to sit on their lead and look for the occasional counter, we toiled in vain the rest of the game.
On the hour a decent cross-field ball from Wright found Smart, but his second touch was too strong and he over ran it.
Smart didn’t see enough of the ball first half, saw more second but wasn’t quite on it today and in the 67th minute his final ball from the right was lacking.
Kennedy too, though he worked hard with Collier, was having the odd pass go astray as well.
The rocks weren’t quite as solid today.
In the 68th minute it was almost three as from another corner McAdden had to save and then the visitors shot just wide.
In the 72nd minute Smart’s cross was too near the keeper and three minutes later his touch deserted him again as a wild attempted ball in went harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Up the other end in the 76th minute the too often hapless Bennett gave away another corner with a poor back pass.
A glimmer of hope on 79 as Bunting won a corner which was cleared as far as Collier on the left, and his left-footed low cross was met by Hollamby whose left-footed effort flew wide.
And on 83 Demuria had a weak header go wide from a Hollamby header into the box.
A minute after that a Hollamby ball over the top just eluded Argent as the keeper got there first.
Having found Bunting ineffective first half we spent most of the second half trying to hit Argent with aerial long balls to little more effect.
But late in the game Bunting did actually win the ball a couple of times in the air.
But it was scant comfort as there was no one running beyond him to pick up the loose ball.
Our final chance came in the 89th minute as the ball fell to Wright on the left of the edge of the area but he can’t buy a goal right now and his right-footed volley on the bounce flew wide.
And that was it.
A 1-2 defeat to league leaders is no disgrace on paper but, for me, the tactics were all wrong today yet no change in shape and none of the four subs were ever asked to warm up.
Winter pitches or not, I think we need to mix it up more and build the play more.
It was a result and performance that left me thinking Sam Deadfield, Ashleigh Artwell and Michael Atkinson can’t come back fast enough, and Jack McKnight deserves game time.
We have four forwards but, at the start of the game, on this evidence the bench is the place for a couple of them.
Back on the road now and something badly needed out of the trip to St Neot’s Town lest our season effectively be consigned to mid-table obscurity before Christmas.
Match Report by Ian Davies