A tired and bruised Wootton Bassett Town came away with a vital three points thanks to Stu Hemsley's first half free kick, which was enough to see off fellow promotion rivals Harrow Hill. Two great saves from 'keeper John Haines ensured the three points went to Bassett as Paul Burke's side continue their late jaunt up the table.
The match was a physical encounter, littered with bookings and the first came after only seven minutes when Harrow Hill captain Paul Frowen was cautioned for a late lunge on Nathan Hall.
In the 13th minute Ben Gascoyne cut in from the left before squaring to Steve Bunting who shot from 25-yards but 'keeper Andy Reid was equal to the effort.
Midway through the half Andy Hallett misjudged a ball over the top and Eddy Weyman pounced on the loose ball before firing just over from a tight angle.
A confrontation between Weyman and Jon Davis brought out two more yellow cards in the 28th minute before Hemsley struck three minutes later.
Bassett were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area, somewhat harshly on their opponents who had a blatant appeal for a free kick turned down moments before. Hemsley couldn't have cared though as he brilliantly curled the ball in the top right corner with precision, allowing Reid no chance.
In the 37th minute Harrow Hill failed to deal with another Bassett attack and a loose ball fell to an unmarked Hemsley 25-yards out. This time though the midfielder struck well over from a good position.
A foul by Harrow Hill defender Martin Reid produced another yellow. Then on 43 minutes came the first of Haines' excellent saves. After skipping past Richard Gee, Jody Taylor shot from an angle but Haines was there to parry away at his feet.
On the stroke of half time substitute Ryan Pendrey shot from a distance but Haines was able to catch the effort on the backpedal.
Three minutes after the restart Gee had the chance to double the lead but headed a free header wide of the right post after connecting with a Davis free kick.
Haines' second act of excellence came on the hour mark. A Pendrey volley from distance looked to be headed for the top corner but, on his back foot, Haines somehow tipped over.
Three yellow cards followed as Hall and Gee were cautioned for Bassett and Matthew Jackson was booked for the home side.
With ten minutes to go a tired Hall was replaced by Chris Mills, who after Saturday's spell between the sticks was put upfront.
With eight minutes left, Gee connected with another Davis free kick at the far post and forced a comfortable save from Reid.
A minute later Bassett looked to have wrapped the game up. Gascoyne set off on another mazy run before squaring to Magani six yards out. Magani tapped in but the goal was ruled out thanks to an offside flag; Anthony McCusker was then brought on, replacing Bunting who had picked up a knock.
The game wasn't finished though as Harrow Hill piled on the pressure in the final five minutes. In the 86th Weyman drilled a shot from 25-yards and Haines could only parry. As Taylor looked to pounce on the loose ball Hallett intervened and cleared to safety,
The hosts weren't finished though and forced two late corners. Both though were well claimed by Haines. The game finished with a booking for a late foul on Haines, Richard Workman the culprit.
With five games left, promotion is still achievable for Paul Burke's side with Letcombe, Purton, Trowbridge, Winterbourne and Easington standing in their way. They may be bruised and tired, but the job is nowhere near done.
Scoop's Man of the Match: John Haines â€“ a brave performance as he picked up a knock on the chin after playing with little care for his own health. Pulled off two great saves that made sure of the clean sheet and, more importantly, the three points.
Scoop Rating: 8/10 â€“ A battling performance that earned a deserved three points. Bassett played some attractive football that opened up a few good chances whilst the front pairing of Magani and Hall held the ball up well. The defence was solid as usual, producing their ninth clean sheet of the year.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Friday 18th September 2020 at 11:00