Friday 27th May 2022
With the 2021-22 season now complete, we take a look at our teams achieving honours this year. This series begins with a review of the Development team's Wiltshire Senior League Premier Division title-winning campaign.
Finishing with the league's best attacking and defensive records and dropping just twelve points from their 32 games, Royal Wootton Bassett Town Development were deserved winners of the Wiltshire Senior League Premier Division in 2021/22 as they edged out Pewsey Vale in a thrilling title race.
Bassett secured the crown – the first league title for either of the club's two senior men's sides since the First Team claimed County League honours in 1987/88 – courtesy of a 1-0 win away against Pewsey in their penultimate match of the season. In a winner-takes-all contest, Dale Richards' first half goal proved enough as a valiant defensive effort kept Pewsey at bay.
Finishing as champions was just reward for a fantastic season from start to finish for Steve Yeardley's team.
Bassett had made something of a tentative start, edging out Devizes Town Reserves 2-1 in their season opener. Tyler Sheppard and Nick Mason had given the Development side a 2-0 lead, but the visitors halved their deficit late on before coming close to snatch a point.
However, after that narrow win, Bassett reeled off seven further consecutive wins – all by at least a three goal margin. Bassett kept a hat-trick of clean sheets in comfortable wins against Wroughton (5-0), Marlborough Town (7-0) and Malmesbury Victoria Development (4-0). Then, after defeating Shrewton United 4-1 on the road in what was a statement victory, they made it five wins on the bounce by thrashing near neighbousr Purton 19-0 at the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground. Their winning streak reached seven games with a 4-1 triumph at Corsham Town Development before five unanswered second half goals away at Frome Collegians made it maximum points from eight matches.
Both Bassett's stingy defence and prolific attack stood out in those opening eight contests, with six clean sheets as well as twelve goals for Matt Bennett and ten for Richards.
The next four weeks then threw up the biggest challenge Bassett had so far faced. The first points of the season were dropped when Bassett shared four goals with Calne Town Reserves in a midweek thriller. Yeardley's team then came from behind to beat Salisbury Development 2-1 courtesy of a Bennett brace – a result that took Bassett top. They wouldn't last long in first place though as, after a hard-fought 4-0 win at Stratton Juniors, Bassett fell to a 3-1 home loss against fellow front-runners Pewsey.
Revenge would eventually come – but not after Bassett had been forced to play catch up as a result of postponements over the coming weeks.
Indeed, between 23 October and 29 January, Bassett were able to play just seven games. All of those resulted in victory as Odd Down Reserves (3-1), Shrewton (4-0), Melksham Town Reserves (2-0), Ludgershall Sports (6-1), Purton (10-0), Trowbridge Town (1-0) and Devizes Town Reserves (2-0) were all seen off. Most important among that string of victories was that at home against Trowbridge – a side battling for a top three finish, with the points being earned by Jon Beeden's second half header.
Despite that run, Bassett still entered February with three games in hand to play on Pewsey, who held a seven-point lead.
There was therefore little room for error – and that seemingly got even slimmer after Bassett were held to a 1-1 home draw by ten-man Malmesbury under the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground lights on a Friday night.
Yeardley's side bounced back with a trio of home wins against Calne (3-0), Corsham (3-1) and Odd Down (1-0) though, and received a lift when Pewsey fell to a 3-2 loss away at Corsham.
Bassett's winning run then continued as Josh Connolly and Bailey Gallagher scored in a nervy 2-0 triumph at Wroughton before a pair of comfortable wins at Melksham (8-2) and home against Marlborough (8-0) to begin the final month of the campaign.
A dramatic late 3-2 victory at home against Frome Collegians, earned courtesy of a Beeden winner, coupled with a Pewsey draw against Malmesbury then took Bassett back to the top, with a two point lead and a game in hand to play.
Bassett were thus now in control of their own destiny. But after hitting twelve without reply in the return fixture at home against Stratton, Bassett came unstuck away at Trowbridge, a late Bennett penalty not being enough to prevent a 2-1 loss.
That result, combined with a win for Pewsey against Stratton, meant the coming meeting between the teams would likely be a championship decider. Going into the match at Pewsey, the hosts led by a point having played a game more. Therefore, if either side won the title race would be over, while a draw would put pressure on Bassett to get a result in their final match.
Richards' goal ensured that would not be required though as Bassett dug deep to claim victory and be confirmed as champions.
The trophy would then be presented at Salisbury – after Bassett twice came from behind to salvage a draw, with Bennett and Richards scoring their 42nd and 35th goals of the campaign respectively.Last modified on Friday 27th May 2022 at 08:00.