Match Preview: Basingstoke Town v Salisbury – Saturday 30th December 2023

Match Preview: Southern League Premier South
Basingstoke Town vs Salisbury
When: Saturday 30th December 2023 Kick-off 3pm
Where: Winklebury Sports Centre, Winklebury Way, Basingstoke. RG23 8BF
Salisbury (The Whites), Avg 2023-24 Home Att 669

Well our Boxing Day second-half fight back, sets us up for an even bigger last game of 2023 as we host the last team we have yet to face this season, in second-placed Salisbury.
The last time we played Salisbury was back in February 2019 in the old Evo-Stick Southern Premier South Division, where we were drawing one-one until conceding a late goal on ninety minutes. Our goal-scorer on the day was Zidane Akers. The home fixture just eighteen days before, saw us lose two-nil.

Our Opponents
The Whites are managed by Brian Dutton, who took over in October 2022, after being in charge at Walsall. Dutton’s playing career was as a versatile, player who could play in defence, midfield or attack, and played for numerous non-league clubs in his career, such as Eastleigh, Weymouth, Havant & Salisbury.

As stated above, Salisbury sit in second-place, two points behind first-placed Chesham Utd, with an impressive record that sits at Pld 22 Won 14 Drawn 4 Lost 4, with 46pts. On Boxing they hosted Winchester City in the ‘Cathedral Derby’, and a late, late equaliser for the Whites, earned them a two-two draw. They come to Winklebury with an away record of five wins, two draws and four losses.

Their leading goalscorer is 36 year-old Portuguese defender Sido Jombati, with nine goals, five of them from the penalty spot. Jombati, previously played for Basingstoke back in 2008 & 2009, before moving to Bath City. He has also played for other club such as Weymouth, Wycombe Wanderers and Ebbsfleet, before joining the Whites in July this year. Forward Noah Coppin who joined in July from Chippenham Town has six goals. Coppin, has spent most of his career playing for Western-based teams, such as Weston-Super-Mare, Melksham and Taunton Town. Experienced striker Daniel Fitchett, has been at Salisbury since joining the club from Wealdstone Town in 2018. An Aldershot Academy player he has played for Salisbury before as well as Wycombe, & Sutton Utd. Harry Williams (27), joined the Whites in November from Gloucester City and has already added three goals. Having scored for Sholing against the Whites, Salisbury signed forward Wayne Robinson, who has added two goals since joining.

In midfield they signed 19 year-old winger, Josh Hedges from Didcot Town, who has added six goals this season. Another midfielder Charlie Gunson, has added four goals, and he joined from Dorchester Town at the end of last season. He has also played for clubs such AFC Totton and Wimborne Town. Ryan Penny, by day a school-teacher joined after impressing in pre-season games, and joins having played for Chichester City & AFC Stoneham.

In defence apart from Jombati, they have Tom Leggett, who spent a short period of time at Basingstoke back in 2018, before joining Gosport Borough, then Farnborough, before coming to the Whites via Hartley Wintney. Another player who joined via Chippenham is fullback Aaron Simpson, has played for a number of clubs including Kilmarnock, Dover Athletic and Sutton Utd. In goal will be 26 year-old Josh Gould, who joined via Swindon Supermarine at the start of this season. Gould, has been at clubs such as Swansea City, Bath City and Ebbsfleet Utd on loan.

Our Basingstoke Town Side
After poor back-to-back losses against teams at the bottom of the league, we spent the first forty-five minutes of our Boxing Day game at AFC Totton under the cosh. Despite going two behind early into the second-half, a double-substitution, saw the game turn on its head, sparked by the return of striker Dan Rowe. It was he who neatly headed us back into the game, soon to be followed by an equaliser, as Markus Johnson-Schuster, first to a loose ball, knocked the ball home from eight yards out. The draw gave us a valuable point and some cause for optimism going into tomorrow’s game.

The point still keeps us in thirteenth place, with our league record now standing at Pld 25 Won 7 Drawn 6 Lost 12 GF 47 GA 59 with 27pts. Assuming that Dan Rowe, had no reaction to his playing for thirty-five minutes then he will surely lead the line, and look to add to his thirteen goals on the season. It is unclear if experienced forward Liam Ferdinand, will be fit to return, but if not then Stefan Brown could retain his spot up top. Attacking wingers Bradley Wilson & George Reid, will be looking to add to their twelve and ten goals respectively.

The second-half comeback included a midfield change, when left-back Massimo Giamattei moved to replace Mal Hughes, with Callum Winchcombe returning to his usual left back role. Giamattei seemed more effective and fitted in well alongside D’Andre Brown and he could be an option there tomorrow. Again depending on how we set-up, I assume Mal Hughes will be in a midfield slot.

The defence which played in a back five at Totton, seemed stretched every time the Stags attacked in the first-half, and some last ditch blocks, some great saves by Paul Strudley, and some missed chances, was somehow able to keep the score to just one goal. Whether we revert back to a back four or stay as a five, it will likely include our three centre-backs Scott Armsworth, Billy Upton and loanee Anthony Cheshire will be supported by Markus Johnson-Schuster who not only scored, assisted Dan Rowe’s goal, but also took on the Captain’s armband. Kai Hobbs & Nathan Smart were both absent on Tuesday, but will give Manager Dan Brownlie a number of choices on his defence.
Paul Strudley a late replacement for an ill Mark Scott in goal, made some huge saves, and again Dan will need to decide who he wishes to start tomorrow.

The second-half fightback proved that we can match anyone on the day, but reproducing that play needs to be from start against one of the playoff certainties in Salisbury come this May.

The weather for what is expected to be a large crowd is not the best with high winds and rain, and this could affect how the game plays out.

Happy New Year to you all and let’s hope Basingstoke leave 2023 with a win.

Match Preview by Martin French..