Mid-season review: strong first half sees Bassett aiming high
Thursday 20 December 2018 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 20 December 2018 at 19:30)
With the first team on course for their highest ever finish, the Ladies and Sunday sides battling for the title and numerous youth teams in the mix for league and cup success, the opening half of the 2018-19 campaign has been a strong one for Royal Wootton Bassett Town.
The challenge – particularly for the club's senior sides – for the remainder of the campaign will therefore be to maintain the high standards that have been set since the season got underway back in August.
If that task is carried out successfully, then it's beyond doubt that Bassett will be celebrating the addition of a number of pieces of silverware to its collection.
On-field achievement is not the only barometer of success though. And through the continued growth of its youth section and success of its community football programme, the club can continue to be proud of its efforts in aiming to provide football for all.
Strong summer recruitment, outstanding team spirit and superb home form have helped deliver an outstanding start to the Hellenic League Premier Division campaign for Sam Collier's team. And, at the time of writing, Bassett sit fourth, well on course for the highest ever finish in the club's history.
Alongside Holmer Green, Bassett have played more games – 24 – than all other teams in the division, with a number of sides immediately below possessing multiple games in hand. But even if Bassett are to slip a couple of places as those teams play catch up, a top eight finish is still firmly within their grasp.
Bassett have also been an exciting team to watch so far this season. Of the league games they have played so far, seventeen have been decided by a single goal or fewer, a statistic which shows how competitive both the team and league has been. Goals have been guaranteed too, though there is the need to work on shoring things up defensively as the team have conceded 47 times in the league so far.
There have also been significant personal achievements to celebrate. TJ Bohane and Brad Pagliaroli have both reached double figures for goals on the campaign, with Matt Bennett close to joining them. Most notably, however, Steve Yeardley surpassed the 500 first team appearance mark when he captained the side in a 1-1 home draw against Brimscombe and Thrupp.
The only factor that could potentially be considered a disappointment is the fact Bassett's interests in cup competitions have been curtailed. They did record an excellent 1-0 victory away against Leighton Town in the Emirates FA Cup though, before their run in that competition was ended in a frustrating 5-3 defeat away against Lydney Town. Bassett have been unfortunate to receive some tough draws early on as well.
After missing out on the South West Women's Football League Eastern Division title only on goal difference last season, Bassett have not let that disappointment affect them so far this year. The new management team of Jonny House and James Goddard have certainly hit the ground running, and the Ladies sit top of the division at Christmas.
The management pair have successfully blooded a number of youngsters, forging a team that is, again, strong in attack and watertight in defence.
For the second season in a row, it is a competitive at the top of the division. And Bassett cannot get complacent if they are to finish in the position they currently occupy. Newly promoted Frampton Rangers are their nearest challengers, being two points behind, with Cheltenham Town Development a further point back.
Bassett also have a Wiltshire County Cup quarter final to look forward as they seek to at least match their fortunes in that competition in 2017-18 when they reached the final.
The first half of the season has been something of a trying one for the Development team, who have also had to deal with a change in manager with Steve Chadwick replacing Paul Gerrish. But recent weeks have seen an upturn in form, with the team recording three wins in their past five fixtures.
That means Bassett sit twelfth out of sixteen teams in the Wiltshire League Premier Division. And to guarantee safety they will need to at least ensure they remain above three of the division's other reserve sides, which is currently the case.
Their league position arguably does not offer a true reflection of their season either, with five of their opening eight fixtures having been lost by a single goal.
There's certainly plenty of reason to believe that, in their remaining thirteen games, the Development side can climb another couple of places.
Playing in only their second season, the Sunday side find themselves in a position where they can be considered legitimate contenders for the Swindon Sunday League Division One title. At Christmas they sit second, undefeated from eight games and level on points with leaders Greyhound while possessing a game in hand.
Cup silverware is also within reach, as Danny Groom's team have advanced to the semi-finals of the Swindon Sunday League Knockout Cup.
The only minor disappointment has been their exit from the Wiltshire Sunday Cup in the second round, though that came after defeat against fellow league title challengers Penhill United; in the opening round Bassett had defeated perennial heavyweights Greyhound.
The club's veterans section continues to thrive, with their Friday night football games continuing to attract large numbers each week and Bassett maintaining its status as ever-presents in the Wiltshire County Veterans Flexi League.
Their Winter League campaign has just finished, with Bassett finishing third. They recorded four wins and four defeats from their eight games and, at least until the final couple of weeks, were in the mix for the title.
Another Flexi League campaign is due to start in January. And it is hoped that Bassett will be entering two teams.
After a hugely successful 2017-18 campaign in which five teams at competitive age groups claimed silverware, a similar number of teams are in the hunt for honours again.
The Under 16 Blues – reigning cup double winners and league runners-up – are at it again. They are into the last four of the North Wilts League Cup, a win away from the Wiltshire County Cup semi-finals and hot on the heels of North Wilts League Division One leaders Cirencester Town Centurions.
Joining them in the fight on three fronts are the Under 18 Blue and Under 15 Blue sides. Both teams have reached the League Cup semis and County Cup quarters, with the elder outfit three points ahead at the head of Division One and younger of the pair well placed in second.
A pair of recent defeats may not have done their cause many favours, but the Under 18 Yellows and Under 15 Yellows are still in the fight for a top-two finish in their respective divisions.
Bassett's remaining youth teams have enjoyed varying degrees of success, though they have all had at least something to cheer going into Christmas.
The Under 16 Yellows had an excellent run to the North Wilts League Cup quarter finals, only going out after extra time against Division One Wanborough Juniors Black. In the league, they sit in mid-table and a good run in early 2019 could even see them make a charge for second place in Division Two.
Adjusting to life in Division One, the Under 14 Blues have had an up and down start, but are on course for a solid mid-table placing. The Yellows may sit at the foot of Division Three, but they have four points on the board and have been competitive in most games they have played.
After finishing in the lower reaches of Division One in their opening year of competitive football, the Under 13 Blues have shown improvement this year and are currently in fourth place. Following their promotion, the Yellows are more than holding their own in Division Two and are another team who could yet achieve a high placing if they hit a good patch of form. Meanwhile, the Whites have two good wins to their name in Division Four.
Playing competitively for the first time, both the Under 12 Blue and Yellow teams have had a solid first half of the year. The Blues, currently seventh in Division Two, have battled their way into the heart of the table and defeated erstwhile leaders Devizes Town Youth. Two recent wins have also lifted the Yellows into contact with the sides in the middle of the Division Three pack.
There has been success at the non-competitive age groups too as the Under 7s, Under 9 Blue and Under 9 Yellow teams have all triumphed in the Trophy competitions run by the North Wilts League.
With more Trophy and Cup events to come after Christmas, there's plenty more for all sides at the Under 7 through 11 age groups to look forward to. And with the Holland Tour and battles for league and cup honours, the same applies to those from Under 12 upwards.