Thursday 30th December 2021
A busy first half of the 2021-22 season has delivered plenty of on-field success across all sections of the club for Royal Wootton Bassett Town. And the club will be hoping that there will be the opportunity for that continue into the New Year.
Assuming restrictions on sporting activity are not re-introduced, this means that not only is there the welcome prospect of all teams being able to complete an entire season for the first time in three years – but that there is also the chance for a number of sides to claim silverware.
For Bassett's senior men's team, the 2021-22 campaign has been another one in which significant success has been achieved in national cup competitions. After last season's heroics in the FA Cup and FA Vase in which club records were matched, this time around Sam Collier's team have recorded Bassett's biggest ever win in the FA Cup before – most impressively – going further than ever before in the Vase.
It was somewhat frustrating that the convincing 4-0 away win at Thornbury Town in the Emirates FA Cup extra preliminary round was followed by an exit in a replay against Ardley United. But Bassett more than made up for that with a journey to third round of the Buildbase FA Vase.
Qualifying round wins against Knaphill and Portishead Town were followed by three memorable home ties. Downton were comfortably dispatched 4-0 in the first round before a bumper crowd of 293 witnessed a fine 2-0 win against Torpoint Athletic in a high quality second round contest. That triumph saw Bassett make history as they reached the last 64 for the first time ever. And while the third round tie against Hamworthy United ended in a 3-1 defeat, Bassett can be proud of the performance they put in as they ran the Wessex League Premier Division frontrunners close in front of another healthy Gerard Buxton Sports Ground crowd.
Although that Vase run is a certainly a reason for celebration, on the league front Bassett's performances have been somewhat underwhelming. Bassett find themselves 12th at the turn of the year with nine wins, ten defeats and four draws from the 23 games they have played so far.
That in itself is not a bad record. But dig a little deeper and there has been some disappointment. Notably, through September and October Bassett went nine games without victory. A healthy run of five wins from the last seven games has partly made up for that barren run though. Also of concern has been Bassett's record against sides currently in the division's top ten. In the 13 games played against those teams, Bassett have recorded just five points – the lone victory coming against Longlevens.
Finishing in the top half of the Hellenic League Premier Division – something Bassett have never achieved before and which was one of the aims at the start of the season – looks to be a challenge, though it is still possible. And with only six home league games left to play, achieving that is going to require some heroics away from home.
One aim for the remainder of the campaign will be to make sure Bassett finish ahead of local rivals Fairford Town and Shrivenham – both also currently resident in the middle of the Hellenic League pack – come the end of the season.
Assuming the competition runs, Bassett will also potentially have the opportunity to repeat the deep run they had in last season's Hellenic League Challenge Cup. Proposals as they stand would see Bassett face Fairford, Shrivenham and Cirencester Town Development in the group stages of the competition.
Despite this being their third season playing in the South West Regional Women's Football League Premier Division, the interruptions to the two previous campaigns mean Bassett's Ladies side are still in the process of getting used to life at step five of the women's football pyramid.
But on the basis of their performances over the first half of the season, they are adjusting well to the level they now play at. Most impressively, the young players brought into the squad for this season – among them youth section products Ellie O'Nions, Rakhi Patel and Poppy Wannell – have adjusted well to senior football.
After nine games, they sit third in the division with six wins and three defeats. A top four finish would represent a significant achievement. And, as it stands, a top two placing is not entirely out of the question either – although Bassett's mettle is set to be tested with home and away fixtures still to come against leaders Sherborne Town, fourth place AFC St Austell and fifth place Torquay United.
On the cup front, Bassett were eliminated again at the first hurdle in the Women's FA Cup, while the defeat on penalties against lower-level Warminster Town in the Wiltshire County Women's Cup was frustrating. But the side's performances on the league front so far more than make up for that relative lack of cup success – and it is hoped that points can continue to be racked up.
So far, the 2021-22 campaign has been by far the most successful season for Bassett's Development side since the team's introduction. At present they sit second in the Wiltshire Senior League Premier Division, having dropped just five points from their opening 17 games.
Steve Yeardley's charges are nine points behind leaders Pewsey Vale – but that deficit can be eliminated should Bassett win their three games in hand, while the team would also go back on top by virtue of their superior goal difference.
The second half of the season is set to be tough with away trips to Pewsey and Salisbury Development and home and away contests against third place Trowbridge Town still to come.
But the Development side can be proud of what they have achieved so far. And being a firm contender for silverware will certainly act as a motivating force to continue the form they have shown in the New Year.
Bassett's Over 35 Veterans team are another side who have enjoyed an excellent opening first few months of the season. At the turn of the year, the Veterans sit top of the Wiltshire Senior League North Division, three points ahead of Priory Vale who have one game in hand and six clear of Redhouse who possess three games in hand. It's therefore set to be a three-horse race for the title. Bassett are also still active on the cup front, having navigated their way to the semi-finals of the Wiltshire County Veterans Cup where they will face Melksham Town on 10 January.
In their second season in the Oxfordshire Premier League, the Over 50s have again found the going tough in a strong division. But they have been more competitive than last season and have one competitive win to their name.
Last season saw just one of Bassett's youth sides add their name to the club's honours board. In contrast, this season sees multiple teams in the hunt for league honours at the mid-point of the campaign.
Promoted after finishing as North Wilts League Division Two champions last season, the Under 13 Blues are now competing for the Division One title and sit top of the table at Christmas. In a highly competitive division, they are one of four sides who could realistically finish as winners.
Also fighting for the title are the Under 18 Floodlit side. They enter January second in the Wiltshire Senior League Floodlit Division, though with two games in hand over current leaders Melksham Town with two games in hand, Bassett have a great chance to ascend to the summit. With four games to play – all currently scheduled for January, Nick Warren's team are in a three-way battle with Melksham and Devizes Town, which is sure to go down to the wire.
Back in the North Wilts League, the Under 12 Yellow, Under 13 Yellow, Under 14 Blue and Under 15 Blue teams all have realistic hopes of finishing in the top two in their respective divisions. Meanwhile, despite not competing towards the top of Division One, both the Under 18s and Under 16 Blues find themselves in the last eight of the North Wilts League Cup.
It has been a mixed season results-wise for Bassett's other teams at competitive age groups. But the Under 18 Yellow, Under 16 Yellow, Under 12 Blue and Under 12 Girls teams all occupy solid mid-table positions and have put in a number of performances they can be proud of. After a tricky start, the Under 14 Yellows have shown improvement and have two wins to their name at Christmas.
At the non-competitive age groups, Bassett's Under 11 Blues have enjoyed particular success in their age group's Trophy competition, reaching the quarter final stage.
On-field achievement is not the only metric of success though. And the strength of the club in terms of the number of teams it boasts is – as ever – something to celebrate. This has been bolstered again this season with the introduction of two new girls sides. Along with the Under 10s, teams are now operated at both the Under 12 and Under 8 age groups as the club seeks to introduce a stable pathway from youth girls' football through to the senior Ladies' side.
Altogether, Royal Wootton Bassett Town now operates 28 teams, ranging from Under 7s through to Over 50s. Combined with the club's consistently strong community football programmes, that is something we can be immensely proud of - regardless of the degree of on-field success that is achieved. Fortunately, many teams are currently in a position to deliver that too though.
Here's to an equally successful second half of the 2021-22 season!Last modified on Thursday 30th December 2021 at 12:53.