Thursday 3rd September 2020
Their successes over recent seasons means there is one primary goal for Royal Wootton Bassett Town Ladies as they get their 2020-21 campaign underway: to maintain the standards that they have set in their rise up the women's football pyramid.
While that does sound like a demanding task, Jonny House and James Goddard's team are more than capable of achieving that aim. And their performances last season – their first at step five of the pyramid – demonstrate why.
Overall, 2019-20 was another year in which Bassett's Ladies played at a high level. Bassett were one of five teams who could realistically have considered themselves title contenders in the South West Regional Women's Football League Premier Division when the season was brought to a premature close, losing just two of the nine games that they played.
In addition, the Ladies had reached the Wiltshire County Women's Cup final for a third year in a row and advanced further than before in the Women's FA Cup.
With that in mind, it is perhaps little surprise that the team's managers have not felt the need to substantially overhaul their squad in the summer. Indeed, only three major signings have been made, with the trio all manning attacking positions.
The old adage that if it ain't broke, don't fix it appears to apply.
In goal, last season's number one Abi Footner will be pushed again by promising youngster Alice Farnell.
In front of them, the managers will have a strong quartet of defenders to choose from in the form of vastly experienced club captain Laura Jefferies, reigning joint-Players' Player of the Year Lara Wilson and fellow young stars Rosie Kirk and Mollie Smith.
An abundance of talent is available to choose from in midfield. Club stalwarts Amber Egerton (who shared the Players' Player of the Year prize with Wilson), Hannah Gulliver and Lisa Coe have signed again, with Grace Eagles and Beth Kelloway – who both impressed in their debut seasons with Bassett also in the mix. Ellie Hayward, who is dual-signed with Highworth Town, and the talented Emma Sykes, who is returning from a long-term injury, have also been retained.
Joining them in the mix are new signings Shannon King and Lois Beer, both of whom join from Swindon Supermarine and add to the creative mix going forward.
Completing the trio of new signings is prolific forward Lani Dickinson. She joins fellow regular goal-getter Hayley Huckin – winner of the Managers' Player of the Year prize in 2019-20, Holly Baker, Maddy Elliott, Libby Davies and Aly Lyons in attack. The latter two players will be dual-signed with Melksham Town and Highworth respectively in order to get further playing time.
With plenty of familiarity already within the squad, preseason has therefore been more about getting back up to speed than going through the process of teambuilding.
And, aside from one below-par performance, Bassett have enjoyed a solid build-up to their campaign.
They began their series of friendly fixtures with a convincing 14-0 victory at home against County League side Marlborough Town. A much tougher test awaited in their second match when up against FA Women's Premier League South West Division One side Larkhall Athletic. But Bassett defeated their higher-level opponents 5-2 thanks to goals from Huckin (2), Baker, Dickinson and Gulliver.
A disappointing 2-0 defeat away against Laverstock and Ford followed. But Bassett bounced back, defeating Chipping Sodbury Town 8-3 in a game in which Dickinson netted a hat-trick and Baker a brace. Their preparations for the campaign then finished with a tough fixture away against Abingdon United, with the 5-1 scoreline in favour of the Oxfordshire side concealing what was a decent performance from House and Goddard's side.
With their preparations complete, it is now back to competitive action for Bassett. The standards have been set over richly successful recent seasons. And the team is more than capable of maintaining them in 2020-21.Last modified on Thursday 3rd September 2020 at 08:00.