Truro City come in to this game on a strong run of form, undefeated in their last nine League matches. In seventh place in the National South before the weekend – the highest position in the club’s 126-year history - Truro slipped to tenth after Saturday’s fixture against Hemel Hempstead at Treyew Road was abandoned due to floodlight failure.
Truro’s progress continues to be very much a team effort. The club’s 26 goals in all competitions this season have been shared amongst no fewer than 11 players. Four goals is enough to make Craig Duff Truro’s leading scorer, with Matt Wright, Jamie Reid and Arran Pugh all on three.
Basingstoke, in contrast, have struggled to find their form in the League. After 16 games they are bottom of the table with just nine points. Fans had to wait until October 27th for their first (and so far only) win in the League this season, a 3-1 victory over Whitehawk, which lifted them briefly off the bottom of the table.
Their away form has been particularly poor with the club taking just three points from eight games on the road. That continued last Saturday where they travelled to Concord Rangers and found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-0 drubbing.
Basingstoke’s poor start in the League is surprising given a 3rd place finish in the Conference South last season that earned them a play-off place (they went out 2-1 on aggregate to Whitehawk in the semi final). The club’s apparent loss of form can’t be put down to a closed season exodus; of the 16 players on the team sheet for the play-offs last May, 14 are still at Basingstoke.
The loss of one particular player, however, does seem to have been significant. Goalkeeper Stuart Moore, who made 44 appearances during his season long loan from Championship club Reading, was an integral part of Basingstoke’s 2014-15 success and was voted Player of the Season. Whether his departure is the major factor in the club’s relatively poor recent defensive record is open to question, but the fact is that Basingstoke have conceded an average of more than two goals per game so far this season compared to just one per game last year.
Basingstoke’s FA Cup form has been much better. After defeating National League Club Torquay United 3-0 to reach the First Round proper, Basingstoke went down to League Two Cambridge United by a single goal in a tightly fought encounter.
The inability to translate that strong Cup form into the League must be frustrating for Manager Jason 'Mr Basingstoke' Bristow. While he has been in charge since 2012, Bristow has been with the club since he arrived as a player 1999, going on to make 234 appearances.
Turning to the players, Chris Flood, the club’s top scorer in 2014-15 with 19 goals in all competitions, is very much on form again this year. The midfielder/striker, who joined in summer 2014 and has spent his career in non-league, tops the Basingstoke scoring charts again this year with 10 from 19 starts, more than a third of the club’s total goal tally.
Attacking midfielder Louie Soares is another core player who has been with the club since 2013 and featured in most matches since then. Soares has played previously at Reading, Bristol Rovers and Barnet amongst others.
In defence, full back Tom Bird has been a stalwart, playing in all games this season and making 50 appearances last season when he was named in the Conference South Team of the Year.
While they are relatively recent arrivals at Basingstoke, one thing that stands out at the club is the presence of so many long-serving players. Five Basingstoke players have made more than 1,130 appearances between them, an average of almost 230 each which is remarkable in the transient world of non-league. Not surprisingly, most of the old-timers are defenders, giving a solid core of experience at the back.
Longest serving is club captain David Ray with 337 appearances over nine seasons. The midfielder played at Crystal Palace and West Ham as a youngster. Centre back Jay Gasson had made 226 appearances for Basingstoke since joining in 2010 while defender Robbie Rice, in his seventh season with the club, has played 217 times. Nathan Smart, a full back, is in his sixth season, with 191 appearances to his name while midfielder Shaun McAuley has turned out 164 times for Basingstoke.