Celebrating success: Ladies County Cup and League runners-up
Saturday 23 June 2018 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 23 June 2018 at 12:44)
The penultimate team to be featured in our 'Celebrating Success' series are Royal Wootton Bassett Town Ladies, who finished as runners-up in the league and Wiltshire County Cup.
South West Women's Football League Eastern Division Runners-up 2017-18
Royal Wootton Bassett Town Ladies went into their inaugural South West Women's Football League Eastern Division campaign with modest expectations. Having secured promotion from the Gloucestershire County Women's League in 2016-17, they were expecting their first season of football at the sixth tier of women's football to be one of consolidation.
Instead, after a stunning start which saw them win their opening thirteen games, they found themselves in the title race. However a gripping, nerve-wracking finale saw them fall just short of finishing top, as they were pipped to the crown by Portishead Town on goal difference.
Still, the runners-up finish achieved was a remarkable, outstanding achievement for the Ladies team, whose stunning progress since their formation less than a decade earlier continued.
Bassett began their campaign away at St Nicholas Ladies Reserves, who had finished as Gloucestershire County League champions the season before. A thrilling encounter ensued, with the visitors coming from a goal down at the break to win 4-3. They followed that narrow victory by thrashing Swindon Spitfires, taking advantage of hat-tricks from Robyn Levett and Beth Westlake to triumph 9-3. The margin of victory was much smaller in their third game of the season, but Laura Gammon's lone goal proved enough to see off Cheltenham Civil Service.
Another comeback victory – this time in a 4-2 win at home against Almondsbury – proved to be the catalyst to Bassett hitting top form. Away at Team Mendip, Westlake bagged another three-timer as her team won 5-1 before consecutive 4-1 victories at home against Oldland Abbotonians and away at local rivals FC Chippenham.
Their final league game of the calendar year then proved a lopsided affair as Frome Town were thrashed 10-0, in a game which saw Hayley Huckin score five.
A near two-month break from league action could not stop the momentum Bassett had built up.
Returning to action in January, late strikes from Westlake and Amber Egerton saw off Spitfires by the odd goal in three as another deficit was overturned. An awarded victory against Cheltenham Civil Service was then followed by comfortable wins against Team Mendip (3-1), FC Chippenham (4-0) and St Nicholas Reserves (4-0).
That left Bassett four points clear of Portishead – themselves still unbeaten – and Swindon Town Development at the top with nine games and two months of the season left.
Bassett still had all four of their games against both teams to play though. And next up, after a lengthy cold snap, was a trip to face Portishead. Come full time, both sides had preserved their undefeated records, Lisa Coe's opener being cancelled out by the hosts early in the second half.
It was a result that favoured Bassett more. However, the rematch a fortnight later would be won 3-1 by Portishead, reducing Bassett's lead to a single point.
The Somerset side would fall to defeat in their next game though. However, Bassett failed to take full advantage drawing 0-0 with Swindon Town.
After being awarded victory against Cheltenham Town Development, Bassett went into the return fixture with Swindon four points behind Portishead, but, vitally, with two games in hand. A 4-0 loss swung momentum in favour of Portishead though, who, winning themselves, moved seven in front.
There were most twists to come, and it appeared all three of the teams in the running were afflicted with nerves. Swindon, smarting from a loss to Spitfires that seemed to end their chances, defeated Portishead 4-3. Again awarded three points, this time after Almondsbury were unable to raise a team, the result meant Bassett – still with three to play – would be champions if they were to win their remaining games.
A trip to basement dwellers Frome awaited. But, despite being favourites, Bassett needed goals from Coe and Huckin and a slice of luck as the hosts missed a penalty to claim a point.
Their title dreams were not yet over, but the result did mean they needed other results to go their way to overhaul Portishead.
Second half goals from Gammon and Michelle Rich against Oldland kept things ticking and, playing their final game before Portishead and Swindon, Bassett secured second place with a 3-0 triumph at Cheltenham Development, in which Huckin scored a brace.
It meant if Portishead failed to beat Almondsbury in their last match the title would be Bassett's. However, with Almondsbury unable to play, an awarded victory saw Portishead seal top spot on goal difference.
It was a frustrating way to conclude a campaign, though Bassett themselves had been awarded the points on three occasions and – importantly – lost their head-to-head series with Portishead.
Either way, second place for the Ladies was no mean feat in their first season after promotion.
Wiltshire County Women's Cup Runners-Up 2017-18
While enjoying success in their first season as members of the South West Women's Football League, Royal Wootton Bassett Town Ladies also reached the final of the Wiltshire County Cup for the second time in their history.
However, in a tense final against Swindon Town Ladies Development, Bassett would fall to a 2-0 defeat.
Their route to the final was a relatively straightforward one.
Their opening round tie away against Market Lavington and Easterton United was a mis-match, with Bassett thrashing their County League opponents 21-0. Nine different scorers got in on the act: Laura Gammon led the way with five, Beth Westlake scored four, Laura Jefferies netted a hat-trick, Gracie Bridger and Jess Dent both scored braces, while Holly Baker, Angel Moores, Emma Sykes and Sam Wood were also on target. An own goal completed the scoring.
Bassett faced County League opposition in the quarter finals too, and though Laverstock and Ford put up more of a fight, Becky Gammon's team still prevailed 6-2 as Gammon struck a hat-trick and Westlake provided two goals.
Hayley Huckin had also got on the scoresheet in the quarter final. And it was to her that Bassett's semi-final away against league rivals Swindon Spitfires would belong. The forward bagged herself a double hat-trick, while a stunning Jefferies free kick completed a 7-0 rout.
That set up a final with Swindon, who had narrowly seen off Trowbridge Town in their final four encounter.
The showpiece brought together two of the leading sides in the South West Women's League Eastern Division. And though goals were at a premium, the final still was an entertaining one, albeit with a disappointing outcome for Bassett.
They found Swindon 'keeper Carla Heaton in top form, and were unable to find the net. Meanwhile, at the other end, Meghan Larkin struck with a free kick on the half hour mark to give Swindon a half time lead, before Shaneez Mwaura fired in on the rebound late on to seal the title for her team.