M Bennett, C Mills
Rylands Way, 21st August 2007
"That's probably as well as Bassett can play, but I know we can play a lot better." – John Fisher, regarding the 0-0 draw at the Elms that set up the replay.
To be fair 'Fish' got one thing right: his side were capable of playing a lot better. But his statement regarding Wootton Bassett Town? How wrong he was. Paul Burke's side rose to the occasion in style and, despite falling a goal behind early in the second half, strikes from Matty Bennett and Chris Mills ensured it was the underdogs who progressed to the FA Cup first preliminary round, not the team who many expected to march on.
It could have been oh so different though: three minutes in the ball fell to Paul Cooper 25-yards out and the Mangotsfield target unleashed a powerful half volley that rattled the crossbar. An inch lower and it would have been in.
A second chance fell three minute later to Paul Day but he failed to guide Kevin Coles' low cross into the bottom left corner, narrowly missing the target.
After a lively start from the visitors things eventually settled down. 24 minutes in a great win from Richie Saunders in the air allowed John Magani to slide Bennett in down the right. The winger cut inside his man onto his left foot but could only blaze over from just inside the box.
Bennett again came inches away from opening the deadlock five minutes later. A hopeful, curling cross from Chris Mills fell to him at the far post, however his header lacked accuracy, sailing over.
The first booking was the next piece of action – coming somewhat late on for an emotionally charged derby game – with John Magani the recipient after a late foul eleven minutes before the break.
Eleven minutes on and Highworth had another gift-wrapped chance to steal a lead. Cooper's free kick struck the wall with some force and the ball hung in the air without any Bassett defender reacting. Andy Minturn charged in at the left hand post but his free header went only slightly over from ten yards.
After an action packed opening 45 minutes, things only got better. As with Sunday's opening game, Bassett started the second half at a lively pace.
Three minutes in strong play from Dennis King and a neat inside pass to Magani set the forward through. However, his shot was blocked and the ball fell to Mills among a pack of players. The perfect chance for the midfielder was struck over though as he leaned back instead of getting his head over the ball.
A minute later another chance fell to Magani, again being blocked on the edge of the area. This time the ball trickled through to King but his chance from ten yards was poked wide, whilst being under heavy pressure from Gary Hill and Ian Gill in the Highworth goal.
Soon after Bassett found themselves down a goal, a cheap one at that. Coles' 54th minute corner wasn't cleared after Saunders blocked a powerful shot and Mark Belcher was on hand to knock the ball home from ten yards out.
The lead though was surrendered four minutes later with Bennett netting a controversial equaliser. Mills' deep cross from the left touchline caused Gill to hesitate coming off his line and, ever the poacher, Bennett hustled in looping a header from close range over the 'keeper and onto the inside of the left post. Gill did brilliantly to even give himself a chance at keeping the ball out, desperately parrying it away, but a waving red and yellow flag on the right touchline meant the ball had crossed the line.
A comeback from Bassett? A team who regularly drop heads after going a goal down? You bet.
With 65 minutes gone a cynical push on Magani after he had broken loose gave Bassett a free kick in a great position, although to be fair it did look as though the foul was committed in the box. A yellow card was produced before Bennett struck his free kick. It struck the wall looping towards the goal line and edged towards going out for a goal kick. King though hooked the ball back across goal and Mills finished it off with a spectacular bicycle kick from all of 8 yards.
His night was to be over a minute later after running himself into the ground, Paul Crabtree his replacement.
Sixteen minutes from time Saunders fired a long range missile towards Gill's goal but narrowly missed before Bassett began their desperate attempt to hang on.
Coles saw a free kick half cleared to Cooper but his low drive fell wide right. Saunders and Gee both found their names in the book for a lunge and dissent respectively as nerves settled in.
Seven minutes before the end Coles crossed in from the right to an unmarked Hill at the far post; the Highworth captain headed over. Another wasted opportunity for the favourites.
With Highworth pushing more and more men on late on Bassett found themselves with two cracking chances to seal the game after swift counter attakcs. Firstly a 50-yard Bennett run was followed by a low cross across goal but neither Magani nor Lee Stoddart could slide in to guide it home. Then a perfectly pinpoint crossfield ball from Lee Morse found Bennett who squared inside to Saunders. Gill though pulled off a stunning save to keep out an acrobatic attempt from the midfielder.
It didn't matter much though: the final whistle was blown moments later, which was quickly followed by a roar from the bumper Rylands Way crowd. The goal had been achieved: David had downed Goliath.
Scoop's Man of the Match: Richie Saunders – awesome in the centre of midfield. Going forward, he linked up well with the two front men and Bennett and Mills on the wing, whilst coming back he did an equally great job. He was hard in the tackle and came out with the ball nearly every time and was just as superb in the air.
Scoop Rating: 9.5/10 – This was the best performance seen at Rylands Way for years. The team showed confidence, commitment and passion in abundance. Highworth looked to rough Bassett up throughout, but Paul Burke's side never gave into it. Picking a man of the match was a tough, tough job – the team deserved it but the award isn't named men of the match. One thing is for sure – this performance cannot produce complacency going into Saturday's tough league match with Easington, one thing it should do though is provide some much needed confidence.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38
M Bennett, C Mills