Ladies seal the title!
Sunday 14 April 2019 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 14 April 2019 at 16:27)
Royal Wootton Bassett Town Ladies completed a league and cup double as a 2-0 triumph away against Swindon Town Development secured top spot in the South West Women's Football League Eastern Division.
With time winding down and the team holding a slender 1-0 advantage courtesy of Hayley Huckin's early header, there were moments when Bassett felt that the trophy was set to slip out of their hands, not least when Chloe Buller smashed an effort against the crossbar for the hosts with the follow-up being blazed narrowly over from close range.
But with just over five minutes to go Amber Egerton settled any nerves, finding the net with a cross-cum-shot that looped in over the Swindon 'keeper to double Bassett's advantage.
That was all her team required, and it was appropriate that one of Bassett's longest-serving players scored the goal that ultimately sealed the title after another eventful title race.
Remarkably, for the second year in a row top spot in the division was earned only by virtue of possessing a better goal difference, with first and second place level on points.
However, having finished as runners-up to Portishead Town last season, this time it is Bassett who reign at the summit as they edged Frampton Rangers, who, in their first season since promotion from the Gloucestershire County League, pushed Jonny House and James Goddard's side all the way in a thrilling campaign.
Awarded fixtures, frustratingly, have played their part again, with the outcome potentially being different were those games to have been played. But Bassett had the better of Frampton over the course of their two meetings, taking four points (last season, arguably it was Bassett recording just one point against Portishead that proved to be the difference in denying them the title).
After their draw with Cheltenham Town Development last week, Bassett knew that three points against Swindon would essentially guarantee them first place unless Frampton won against Laverstock and Ford by a huge margin.
That was always going to be easier said than done though, with Swindon having proved extremely tough opponents in a 2-1 triumph earlier in the year. And having not recorded a win last week, Bassett put themselves under a great amount of pressure for their final fixture.
Unsurprisingly, despite going in front early on, as Huckin flicked in a header from a Lisa Coe free kick for her twentieth goal of the season, their performance was a nervous one throughout.
They had 'keeper Abi Footner to thank for keeping them in front shortly after as she pulled off a stunning save to repel a firm strike that followed a surging run through the visitors' defence.
Bassett were on top for most of the opening period though, yet were unable to build on their lead as the final finish eluded them.
Twice Huckin narrowly missed the target, first when shooting from range and then after latching onto a fine through ball from strike partner Emily Arrell.
Then just before the break Laura Jefferies swung in a superb corner that only needed a touch to go over the line. Swindon subsequently broke up the other end, but solid defending from Jess Dent ensured no shot was forthcoming.
At the start of the second half Egerton nearly added the second, but a cross into the box proved to be out of her reach by the slimmest of margins. Huckin then headed over from a Jefferies set piece delivery.
The Robins' Development side were having their moments too, with Footner and her defence being kept busy.
With time winding down, a free kick into the box almost scuppered Bassett's hopes as Buller rattled the woodwork.
Fortunately for Bassett their clean sheet remained intact.
And Egerton soon settled things. Not a regular on the scoresheet - this was just her fourth of the campaign - she nonetheless can be relied upon to produce high quality performances, which has led to her becoming a fixture in the team over the past few seasons. And it was fitting here that she should net the clincher.