Path to the playoff final: Royal Wootton Bassett Town

Tuesday 23rd April 2024

The Hellenic League Premier Division playoff final between Royal Wootton Bassett Town and Cinderford Town is set to be full of intrigue, pitting two sides with contrasting fortunes and contrasting paths to the final against each other.

Bassett are the upstarts. Before last season they had never finished inside the top half of the Hellenic Premier. Now, after a season in which they have been remarkably consistent, grinding out result after result, they stand one game away from reaching the Southern League for the first time in club history.

Cinderford, on the other hand, are looking to get back to a league in which they spent more than a quarter of a century prior to relegation to the Hellenic League last season. In contrast to Bassett though, their path to the playoff final has had multiple twists and turns.

Read more on Bassett's journey to the final here.


Having finished fifth last season - their first ever top half placing in the Hellenic League Premier Division, Royal Wootton Bassett Town's goal this year was to repeat that feat and with it earn a spot in the inaugural promotion playoffs.

And Bassett did just that, achieving a fourth place finish thanks to their remarkable consistency. Collier's side rarely blew their opponents away. Instead they got this far by grinding out result after result over the course of a relentless, gruelling campaign. And team spirit and desire have been the key ingredients that have got Bassett to the cusp of creating club history.

The team hit the ground running, earning twelve points from twelve to begin the season. The league campaign started impressively with a come from behind 2-1 win at home against Slimbridge before a comfortable 4-0 triumph away at Wantage Town. Consecutive 1-0 victories at home against Mangotsfield United and Hereford Pegasus maintained Bassett's 100% start. But that would eventually end with a narrow 1-0 derby defeat away at Highworth Town in a game that Bassett felt they should have won.

There were then no complaints as Bassett were thumped 7-1 away at Corsham Town at the beginning of September. But the team bounced back from that heavy loss, edging out Tuffley Rovers 2-1 before a four goal first half blitz set them on their way to a 4-2 victory at rivals Fairford Town.

A mini slump followed though. Away at Pershore Town, Bassett came back to level from 2-0 down only to lose 3-2 late on. A last minute equaliser was then needed to claim a point off Thornbury Town (2-2) before a disappointing 2-0 loss at Lydney Town. Those results left Bassett in tenth, albeit still within touching distance of the top five positions.

Four consecutive wins then had Bassett headed in the right direction though. That run started with back-to-back victories by the odd goal in three, first away at Thornbury and then at home against Hereford Lads Club before an impressive 3-1 triumph at Brimscombe and Thrupp. Playing most of the second half with ten men, Bassett then dug deep to claim a vital 1-0 win at home against fellow playoff hopefuls Roman Glass St George.

A 4-0 defeat away at Worcester City brought that run to an end. But Bassett again quickly bounced back, coming from behind to snatch a last minute 2-1 victory at Westfields. At home against Pershore, Bassett drew 1-1 while having to play the majority of the second half with ten men. Collier's side then put Lydney to the sword at home (4-2) before prevailing 2-0 at Longlevens.

Those results had Bassett riding high in third place as they headed into their home Christmas derby with Highworth. But despite taking the lead, they were well beaten by their local rivals (1-3).

No bother. Bassett immediately returned to form. Two trips to Hereford in the space of 48 hours yielded maximum points. At Pegasus, the hosts twice equalised before Bassett eventually found a winner to prevail by the odd goal in five. Away at Lads Club it was more straightforward as Bassett recorded a resounding 4-1 win. The positive results continued as Collier's team secured a 1-1 draw against Cinderford before another comeback win, this time away at Worcester Raiders (2-1). A freezing midweek clash at home against Tuffley then saw another single goal victory (1-0) as the results continued to be delivered.

The end of January and start of February saw another brief slip up. Westfields got revenge for their earlier season loss by claiming a last minute win of their own (1-2) before Roman Glass squeaked out a victory (0-1).

Those losses were not too damaging though as Bassett remained in third. And consecutive 3-0 home wins against Longlevens and Wantage saw the team reach the 60 point mark and close within touching distance of the playoffs. A 0-0 draw at Mangotsfield pulled them nearer again - and the home defeats that followed against Worcester Raiders (0-4) and, agonisingly, Corsham (1-2) were thus not too damaging.

A tense 1-0 Friday night triumph against Fairford settled the nerves before Brimscombe were brushed aside 4-0 to reach 67 points. Bassett then pushed Worcester City all the way in a thrilling game that ended in defeat (1-2).

That left two remaining away fixtures against fellow playoff contenders Cinderford and Slimbridge. Points were still needed with Bassett not yet mathematically secure of their playoff place. Six from six did the trick though, with Cinderford beaten 1-0 courtesy of a late goal and a 2-1 comeback triumph earned at Slimbridge.

Bassett did ultimately finish fourth as Highworth climbed into third courtesy of their superior goal difference. However, home advantage wasn't needed for the playoff semi final as Olly Case's first half header was enough for a 1-0 victory.

It was fitting that the semi final win came by such a score. Single goal margins of victory have been Bassett's trademark with fourteen in the league regular season, another in the playoff semi final and a further three in cup competitions.

That's a sign of the team's willingness to dig in deep for one another - a characteristic that has now carried Bassett to the brink of promotion.

Last modified on Tuesday 23rd April 2024 at 10:00.