S Hemsley, N Matthews, P Tearle
Rylands Way, 22nd April 2008
The 43rd minute of Wootton Bassett Town's end of season encounter with the newly crowned champions Winterbourne United proved to be the turning point of the match, but not as anyone would have expected.
An inexcusable kick out from Phil Tearle, who earlier had halved Winterbourne's lead, earned the youngster a straight red card. Being reduced to ten men, the floodgates appeared as they were about to open; Bassett after all had three days earlier conceded four to a side one place above them in the league.
However, the opposite happened and a 2-1 deficit by the end of the 90 minutes had turned into an improbable, unimaginable and seemingly impossible 3-2 victory.
How? Heart is the reason why.
The defence – reduced to three men for the second half, with Steve Yeardley going forward – rallied around each other, marked Winterbourne's two lightning fast frontmen – Jimmy Potts and Justin Bishop – out of the game and made life easy for Sean Purcell.
The midfield grew tired but fought through the strains and the cramps, getting forward fast, but getting back even faster.
The front two threw their bodies at the ball and both were dominant in the air, even against a vertically stronger defence.
To be honest, it seemed as if it was going to be another 'one of them' days after a minute and a half when Potts scored a sublime goal. He hit first time with the outside of his right boot from 20 yards into the top right corner after a quick counter and Chris Gent through pass. Somehow, he made it look easy.
On the quarter hour mark, Neil Matthews saw a thunderous volley brilliantly parried away by Matty Plant following Mark King's pin-point cross from the right corner.
However, six minutes later Bassett were in an even deeper hole. Bishop was brought down in the box by Stu Hemsley and stood up to take the penalty, driving it straight down the middle past a diving Purcell.
Tearle's cool finish after a Matthews through ball just minutes later halved the deficit, but his moment of madness more than reinstated it. Coupled with having only one sub, the gradient of the uphill struggle on hand had increased dramatically; it was something similar to what climbers face when at the base of Everest.
But that sub – Tom Marchment - would come in more than handy and play a part in the two second half goals.
It was his hustle and tackle that set the first move in flow with 17 minutes left. He knocked the ball loose from an opponent to Rich Gee. The veteran defender then sent a superb cross-field ball out to John Magani on the left.
Magani attacked his defender and flew by him before delivering a low cross with his left foot from the byline. Matthews was on hand to direct the ball in from six yards for his long awaited first goal.
With six minutes left, Magani and Matthews combined for a one-two on the left flank. Matthews pass opened up a great window of opportunity for Magani to fire at goal from distance. He did. However, the right upright got in the way.
The game looked as it was headed for a draw. But then in the last minute the ball was pumped up pitch. Marchment – all the way from the right wing – chased the ball down.
Running at least 40 yards for what appeared to be a lost cause, he managed to beat Plant to the ball and the 'keeper's momentum took him into the forward, leaving referee Mizzi no option but to point to the spot.
From there, Stu Hemsley coolly sent Plant the wrong way, placing the ball in the bottom right corner to cap an astounding night's football.
It seems whenever these two teams meet at Rylands, something special happens. Once again, it did.
Scoop's Man of the Match: Jonny Aitkenhead – although Neil Matthews deserves heaps of praise for his work and dominance up front, it was Aitkenhead's organisation of the defence after moving into sweeper for the second half that turned the game around. Not once in that half was Purcell troubled.
Scoop Rating: 9/10 – the first half performance – although not bad - wasn't one, which will remain engrained in the memory, but the second half showing more than will. Everyone rallied around each other and got what they fully deserved.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38
S Hemsley, N Matthews, P Tearle