Twenty years on: Bassett’s first Wiltshire Senior Cup title

Friday 10 May 2019 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 10 May 2019 at 18:00)

11th May is a special date in the history of Royal Wootton Bassett Town Football Club, with this year marking the twentieth anniversary of the club winning the Wiltshire Senior Cup for the first time in its history.

A 3-2 victory after extra time against Pewsey Vale at the County Ground ensured the cup for the county's oldest football competition could finally be displayed in Bassett's trophy cabinet.

And it had been a long time coming.

The club had first entered the Senior Cup back in the 1899-1900 season, falling to a 7-0 first round defeat against Warminster Town, having defeated Even Swindon United in a qualifying round replay.

But success in the tournament long eluded Bassett.

Two finals were reached in the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1902-03, Bassett were defeated in the showpiece by Warminster, losing 3-1 in a replay after an initial 0-0 draw. A season later – Bassett's first playing in the Wiltshire County League – they again made it to the final but were convincingly beaten 3-0 by Swindon Town Reserves.

Eighty-four years passed before Bassett ventured that far again. But, having won the 1987-88 Wiltshire County League Division One title (and earning promotion to the Hellenic League), Mick Woolford's team were unable to complete the double as near neighbours Purton prevailed 1-0.

More than a decade passed before Bassett would have the chance to play for the trophy again. This time the outcome would be different.

Led by manager Dave Warren, who was in his second season in charge, Bassett advanced through the opening two rounds of the 1998-99 edition of the Wiltshire Senior Cup with relative ease.

At home against County League Bradford Town in the first round goals from Lee Stoddart, Simon Green, Barry Taylor and Jeremy Newton secured a comfortable 4-1 victory.

County League opponents would have to visit Rylands Way in the second round too, and Wroughton were brushed aside in that match as Bassett notched six goals without reply. Three goals came in either half, with Richard Merchant scoring a hat-trick, Lee Stoddart a brace and Newton providing the other strike.

That set up a tricky semi-final tie against Western League Division One outfit Corsham Town. But again Bassett produced the goods, booking their place in the final with a win by the odd goal in three.

The game, staged at Chippenham Town's Hardenhuish Park, saw Newton give Bassett the lead ten minutes before half time. Corsham, who had arguably been the better team for most of the opening period, quickly replied though. However, a Green header in the final stages of the game put Bassett through.

The goals kept flowing in the final against Pewsey – another Western League Division One opponent. And Bassett wrote history with a 3-2 victory, coming after extra time.

On what proved to be a dramatic evening, Bassett fell behind after just fifteen minutes. Pewsey then held the lead until midway through the second half when Stoddart raced onto Paul Harper's through ball and fired home an equaliser.

Paul Davis' header from a Harper free kick subsequently gave Bassett the lead. But, trailing for the first time, Pewsey equalised almost immediately, and the scores remained level at full time.

Five minutes into the first half of extra time, Bassett grabbed what proved to be the winner as the Pewsey 'keeper was unable to keep hold of a Merchant header from another dangerous Harper delivery.

Bassett's lead could even have been extended, but Micky Goodwin saw a goal ruled out for offside and Stoddart missed when one-on-one.

Bassett were able to hold on for the win and lift the trophy though.

It was an enthralling final, and the teams would meet again in the semi-finals a season later. Another classic ensued, with Pewsey, who would go on to win the competition, prevailing 5-4 on penalties after extra time finished with the scores level at 2-2.

However, Bassett would only have to wait another year until they won the trophy again. In 2000-01, Barry Giles' side triumphed 2-0 against Shrewton United in the final at Melksham Town's old Conigre ground as Stoddart and Harper scored the decisive goals.

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The Evening Advertiser's report of the 3-2 win against Pewsey Vale, published on Wednesday May 12th 1999, is reproduced below:

Fourth time lucky for Bassett as they win Senior Cup

In one of the most exciting finals seen at the County Ground for many years, a goal in the first period of extra time by Richard Merchant gave Wootton Bassett a 3-2 victory over Pewsey Vale.

Pewsey had competed in the final on three previous occasions and won the trophy in 1991-92. Wootton Bassett appeared in the final on three occasions, finishing runner-up each time.

In a hectic opening ten minutes in pouring rain, play switched from end to end with a greasy ball causing difficulties for both keepers.

A fumble by Bassett keeper Fuller from a corner was scrambled away and at the other end an in-swinging corner hit the far post with Pewsey keeper Flippance a spectator.

A long range effort from Jeremy Newton again brought Flippance in action and a header from Richard Merchant flashed just wide of the post.

It was no surprise when the first goal came after 15 minutes. Bassett's defence failed to clear and the ball ran loose to Richard Pearson who sent a 25 yarder flashing into the net.

The game continued to flow from end to end with Bassett's Lee Stoddart and Jeremy Newton looking dangerous on the break and long throws by Paul Harper causing havoc in the Pewsey penalty area.

Just before the break Richard Merchant went close to equalising, his shot spilling out of Flippance's arms but no one was on hand to pick up the loose ball.

After the interval another long throw by Harper was almost headed into his own goal by Pearson and a free kick by Brian Blake just cleared the Bassett bar.

Pewsey, coming under increasing pressure, brought on subs Alan Newman and player-manager Robbie Lardner but the changes failed to halt the dangerous runs of Newton and Stoddart and midway through the half a through ball by Paul Harper, who was having a great game, was picked up by Lee Stoddart who ran through to shoot past the keeper.

Harper was again provider shortly after with a brilliant curling free kick into the box that was met by central defender Paul Davis with a diving header to give Bassett the lead.

Almost immediately Pewsey fought back to equalise when a corner on the left was met by Brian Blake whose powerful header gave Fuller no chance.

Still chances came at the end before the game drifted into extra time.

The all important goal came five minutes into the first half of extra time when yet another pinpoint free kick by Harper was headed goalwards by Merchant. Keeper Flippance failed to hold the effort and the ball spilled over the line and into the net.

Bassett found the net shortly after through Micky Goodwin but the goal was disallowed for off side.

Pewsey piled on the pressure in the second period of extra time but stout defending and a couple of good stops by Fuller kept Bassett's lead intact and in a quick break Stoddart found himself with only the keeper to beat but shot straight at him.

Bassett manager Dave Warren said after the game "I'm delighted with my side's victory and the final was a credit to both teams."

Trophies were presented by Richard Gardner, vice chairman of the Wilts FA and assistant secretary Mike Benson.

Before the kick off, both sides observed a minute's silence as a mark of respect for Mick Parry, secretary of the Wilts FA, who died on Sunday.

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