FARNBOROUGH Town boss Graham Westley opted for a tactical change for Saturday's gritty clash at Hartsdown Park and was pleased with the performance, despite his team going down to their third successive defeat.
After a difficult few weeks Westley has opted for a 4-4-2 formation for the team's first game of 2002 — and believes this is the one that can see them push for the honours they crave for so badly.
"They are bound to be getting used to it and to make that decision to change formation mid-way through the season is one that we didn't take lightly," he said. "We did it because we feel it's the way we're going to win more Conference games, more consistently. We've done okay this year, but we really need to be unlocking sides more than we are and we think with the personnel we've now got at the club we can build a team around that formation.
"The danger when you change your formation is that there is going to be a little bit of organisational chaos, with people not quite understanding how to react to situations and what people are going to do in situations.
"But I think they've adapted well. So I'm very confident that it's going to be the right way forward and I think today was a hiccup and we can get on the right road next week."
But with Margate putting in their best performance in recent weeks — Saturday's was their first win in ten games — it was always going to be an uphill struggle for Boro.
The home side pushed deep into the Boro half and forced stand-in keeper Graham Benstead into a number of desperate clearances.
Their opener came after nine minutes, when an in-swinging corner from ex-Woking man Terry McFlynn found the back of the net, leaving Benstead flapping aimlessly at the air.
McFlynn had another shot well stopped by Benstead ten minutes later as the Boro defence looked uncertain and struggled to deal with the mounting pressure.
Boro weren't without their chances in the first half however, with Gary Patterson heading a Chris Piper free kick to the arms of the waiting Charlie Mitten, in the Margate goal.
But their best chance came from Lenny Piper after 32 minutes, when he wrong-footed his defender and connected with a Dean Green centre, only to see it graze the wrong side of the upright.
The second half saw a flurry of yellow cards — four for Boro, five for Margate — as referee Martin Postle tried to stamp his authority on a niggly game. Hardly surprising really as these two teams top the ill-discipline table with Boro leading the way on 55 yellow and seven red cards. Margate are not far behind.
The same statistics also reveal that skipper Steve Watson, booked nine times and sent off twice so far this season, has the worst players' discipline record in the Conference.
This half also saw a goal apiece, with Boro stepping up a gear and putting Margate under increasing pressure. Had they started in the same vein they finished in, the game would have been a far closer affair.
The home side went two up on 58 minutes when Braithwaite stole the ball from Patterson, who slipped on the increasingly dewy pitch. One on one with Benstead, Braithwaite coolly slipped the ball into the bottom left hand corner, leaving Boro's keeper with no chance.
The visitors pulled one back in the final minute of the game — Chris Piper connecting with a freekick from brother Lenny and launching the ball ferociously into the net, leaving Mitten sprawling across the goalmouth.
The ever-optimistic Westley added: "I'm not disappointed with the performance. I thought the boys put in the work rate today that has possibly been lacking in recent weeks.
"It was a question of quality out there. They're good players and we gave too much cheap possession away, especially in the second half when we had the slope and the advantage and were looking to make the most of it. I thought the quality of our possession was poor - they're better players than that and I doubt they'll sink that low again.
"We want to get ourselves in a position where we are playing championship football and people can look at us and think ‘yeah they are serious'. If silverware comes with it then that's fantastic, but we've just got to build ourselves into a winning team.
"I see the progress and the key characteristic of a winning team is that that work rate and that commitment and that will to win are in there and I know I've got that and I can see it coming out of the players. With a bit more organisation, a bit more understanding we'll start getting the results."
BORO: Benstead; Warner, Annon (sub Gregory 72mins), Green (De Souza 72), Patterson, Laker, Watson, L Piper, Vansittart, Baptiste (Crawshaw, 76), C Piper. Not used: Holloway, Dublin.
Ref: Martin Postle Att: 875
*The cancelled New Years Day clash with Woking will now be played on Tuesday March 5 at the Aimita Stadium. Kick off will be at 7.45pm.