Bassett aiming high
Wednesday 31 July 2019 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 31 July 2019 at 10:16)
The 2018-19 season was Royal Wootton Bassett Town's twelfth playing in the Hellenic League Premier Division. And it was also the first time that they avoided a bottom half finish.
However, by virtue of ending up tenth out of nineteen teams, they still failed to crack the top half of the table.
A middling run following the turn of the year – a familiar theme in recent seasons - was the reason behind that failure as just four extra points would have seen Sam Collier's team wind up eighth.
Given that situation, you would think that the goal for the 2019-20 campaign would be to finally break into the top half; anything extra would be an added bonus.
But this year Bassett are aiming higher.
Collier and his assistant Matt Bulman will not just be content with, say, sixth or seventh place. Instead, they are aiming for the top positions in this year's Hellenic League Premier Division.
And with extra promotion places available at the end of this season due to the latest restructuring of the non-league system, they will be hoping that Bassett will be in the mix for one of those spots.
It is a lofty ambition. Yet, based on Bassett's summer recruitment and, similar to 2018-19, the likely competitive nature of the division, why not be bold?
Bassett's attack in particular has the potential to cause plenty of problems for opposing defences.
Last season's leading scorer TJ Bohane may have departed for Highworth Town. But with the retention of eighteen-goal Brad Pagliaroli, and the additions of Callum Parsons, Danny Langford and youngster Rhys Talmash, Collier has multiple dangerous frontmen at his disposal.
It would be unfair simply to concentrate on his attacking signings though, as the Bassett boss has, on paper, improved his side across the pitch.
Central midfielders Jonny Davoile and Callum Wright, who arrive from Wantage Town, bring title-winning know-how. Meanwhile, promising talent Alfie Presley will inject extra creativity in wide areas.
Experience and youthful vigour have been added at the back too. Centre half Tom Cole brings the former, while full backs Tinashe Gwavava and Tyron Leigh and central defender Zak Eadle provide the latter. '
Keeper Declan Lehmann, signed on a season-long loan from Chippenham Town, will also ensure consistency and security in the last line of defence, something that was missing in 2018-19.
There's plenty of strength in depth – and competition for places - too, with the majority of last season's side re-signing and defender Chris Jackson returning after a year with Shrivenham.
Performances in preseason have been strong, reflecting both the quality in the squad and the recognition on behalf of the players that every place has to be earned.
Bassett began with a 3-3 draw against Radstock Town, conceding twice late on after a number of substitutions, having held a commanding 3-1 lead.
Eight goals without reply were then put past Wiltshire County League side Cricklade Town before an outstanding display away against Southern League Cirencester Town sealed a hugely impressive – and improbable – 7-2 triumph.
Another away trip to Western League Bradford Town saw Bassett demonstrate their resilience. After going 2-0 behind, they proceeded to score three unanswered second half goals to take the victory.
Playing against National League South Chippenham Town – in a family affair for Sam Collier and his father Mark, the Bluebirds' boss – Bassett gave a solid account of themselves, ultimately falling to a 2-0 loss.
They then drew their final tune-up fixture – a tempestuous affair against Forest Green Rovers Under 18s – 2-2.
Bassett have shown much promise this summer. Now that needs to translate into the season proper if they are to fulfil the lofty targets they have set.