Bassett aim to break top half duck
Friday 03 August 2018 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 03 August 2018 at 08:30)
Through eleven seasons in the Hellenic League Premier Division, Royal Wootton Bassett Town hold the rather dubious record of never having achieved a top half finish.
At the mid-point of the 2017-18 campaign they appeared on course to break that duck. But thanks to a disappointing winter and spring – which heralded a change in management – they wound up a mediocre fifteenth.
That sent Sam Collier, whose appointment as manager was confirmed as permanent after the end of the season, into the summer with plenty to stew over.
At his disposal while interim boss he had a solid young core of players. But firepower and goals were sorely lacking, reflected in the fact Bassett finished with the third worst scoring record in the division.
It was therefore little surprise that Collier made boosting his attacking options one of his main priorities.
And a number of players have been added who, it is hoped, will pose a greater peril to opposing defences.
Rob Lincoln, who split time between Purton and Shrivenham last season, and former Bassett youth section player Josh Shama both offer a lively, youthful presence on the wings, with the wide men more than willing to take on full backs.
Also added to that position is Matty Bennett. Though entering his thirties and playing Wiltshire League football last year, he still possesses the pace, fitness and skill that saw him break through with Bassett over a decade ago.
Another attacking addition is exciting forward Brad Pagliaroli. Young and energetic, he struck eleven times in 32 appearances for league rivals Binfield last season before finishing the campaign with Letcombe.
And to their number, Collier has made two late summer coups, securing the signatures of TJ Bohane and Jason Milhench.
Scorer of 78 goals in the past two years for Bracknell Town as the Robins secured consecutive runners-up finishes, Bohane, who has also previously helped Highworth Town to the semi-finals of the FA Vase, had originally signed for Wantage Town. However, family commitments have meant he has decided to ply his trade closer to home.
Milhench, meanwhile, joins from Highworth, who he scored seven times for in thirteen games last season.
Another returning to the club to boost Bassett's strength in the final third is the dependable Tyler Sheppard, while Kieran Jennings, who featured sparingly for Clanfield last year and has been a frequent scorer in District and County League football over the past few years, has also signed.
While much concentration has been placed on improving Bassett's offensive arsenal, that's not to say that other positions have been neglected.
In midfield, Callum Wright has moved on to Wantage, necessitating the recruitment of players to fill the central midfield gap next to Gio Wrona and Kai Robinson.
To that end Bassett welcome the hard-working Iggy Illott from Letcombe, former Cirencester Town graduate Luke Neves, who has spent time playing at Fort Hays State University in the United States, as well as the experienced, tough-tackling Danny Lachacz. Also in the mix are Dan Cole and Steve May.
At the back, experienced Southern League campaigned Kyle Lapham, who was with Highworth last season, has been signed with promising youngster Jack Stanley added to help fill the full back role vacated by Chris Jackson, who moves to Shrivenham.
Meanwhile in goal, veteran shot-stopper Matt Bulman has put pen to paper, and will be competing with youngster Alex Bowers for the number one jersey.
It has taken time to bring the squad together – something reflected in Bassett's somewhat mixed pre-season results.
They were beaten 7-4 by Clanfield in their first contest before falling 5-0 to Westbury United. Collier's team then bounced back with a solid performance in a 5-2 loss against Supermarine, with the newly promoted Southern League Premier Division South side only pulling away late on. A first victory was secured in the penultimate friendly against Carterton, with Bassett coming from behind to prevail by the odd goal in three. Then, in their final tune-up game away at Devizes Town, Bassett drew 2-2.
Yet, Collier is more than content with the players he has to work with. And the Bassett boss is now in the enviable position of having a sizeable squad with sufficient quality in virtually all areas of the pitch.
It is therefore hoped that they will offer more than enough to finally ensure there's no need to scroll down towards the lower regions of the league table when trying to find Bassett's name come spring 2019.
A modest aim maybe. However, it would represent something Bassett have never achieved before. And that's certainly something worth aiming for.