The Elms, 19th August 2007
FA Cup history is full of upsets, the underdogs – inspired by the magic of the competition – overcoming the favourites. Well if it wasn't for Highworth Town 'keeper Ian Gill and his heroics, we would be speaking about adding Wootton Bassett Town's name to the long list of upsetters.
With the two rivals separated by one level on the pyramid and with Bassett's recent history going up against teams at this level, it was assumed Paul Burke's side would have to pull something special out of the hat to come up with anything from this extra preliminary round tie.
Instead a gritty, professional display nearly earned them victory against a Highworth team who appeared to lack inspiration.
Bassett's front pairing of John Magani and Dennis King gave the hosts' defence nightmares. Magani's pace and King's strength and ability to hold the ball up combined to the extent that it appeared both had been playing together for years when in fact this was their first game together 'up top'.
The Bassett back four similarly frustrated their opponents – particularly Rich Gee, who after two games out of the squad, came in and performed admirably for the 90 minutes.
However, nineteen minutes in a brief lapse of concentration nearly gave Highworth the lead. After Sean Purcell had palmed Paul Cooper's free kick wide, Gary Hill lost his marker and headed just over from Kevin Coles' despite being gifted an easy opportunity.
A minute later Matty Bennett was causing trouble at the other end. A perfectly placed Lee Morse ball set the winger free before he opened fire from twenty yards. Gill, however, managed to guide the ball around his front post to safety.
Midway through the opening period Dennis King found the back of the net from a Nathan Perkins' cross but an offside flag ruled it out.
Perkins then was kept out by Gill as his curling free kick was fisted away at the left hand post, Gill doing well to get to the ball.
With Highworth attacking in numbers, Bassett were able to exploit their opposition on the counter attack. Just before half time a timely Perkins tackle allowed Magani the room to race down on goal from inside his own half. However, a superb desperation tackle from Hill meant the forward had no time to test Gill.
Burke's side remained in the ascendancy at the start of the second half with King forcing another fine save from Gill after easily disposing Hill of the ball and striking powerfully from the right hand side of the box.
After a Perkins booking for a foul, Magani once again came close in the 56th minute. Paul Patel's deep cross picked the forward out and after taking a touch to skip past Hill, he fired from 20-yards but could not find the target.
Just after the hour Cooper drilled a free kick just over from a great position before Gareth Davies was cautioned after a late lunge at Magani, a player the Highworth defence seemed happy to rough up.
In the 66th minute King pulled the ball back to Bennett on the edge of the area and, after weaving his way through a couple of red shirts, the winger struck a low left footed drive that Gill did well to get down to in order to tip around the post.
A minute later Gill flapped at a Martin Thompson free kick, punching to the feet of Chris Mills but the midfielder's effort sailed well over.
Purcell was once again called into action to deny Cooper with nineteen minutes left, parrying away after Cooper slid in to connect with Jamie Mills' low cross.
Six minutes later Highworth were reduced to ten men: Matt Pratley, who had only been brought on as a substitute at half time to replace Alex Rudd – who himself had been cautioned, received his marching orders after punching Steve Yeardley in the face whilst Bassett's skipper was down on the ground.
With four minutes to go Paul Day was lucky to escape with just a booking after a nasty tackle on Yeardley.
Despite having the man advantage, Bassett could not conjure up a late winner meaning the game will be replayed Tuesday night at Rylands Way. The closest they came in the closing stages was when Patel picked out substitute Paul Crabtree but the midfielder's twelve yard drive went across goal and wide.
Scoop's Man of the Match: John Magani – a thorn in the side of Highworth's defence for the entire 90 minutes. Embarrassed Gary Hill with his pace and was unlucky not to find the back of the net.
Scoop Rating: 8/10 – a fantastic performance against a team who seemed surprised at what had hit them. Bassett settled down after the first ten minutes was spent with Highworth camped mostly in Bassett's half and were unlucky not to win, being much the better team on the day.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38