Rylands Way, 9th April 2012
Wootton Bassett Town were beaten 2-1 by visitors Winterbourne United in an enthralling encounter on a wet and wild afternoon following a last minute winner from James Mainstone. Despite a negative result to complete their campaign, Dave Turner's side are now guaranteed a top six finish, though they continue to occupy fourth position in the Division One West table.
Last games of the season are not meant to be exciting, all action affairs full of intrigue, controversy and pure drama. Admittedly both teams had something to play for. Even then though, there was every chance the occasion could get to the players and result in a turgid, nervous affair.
For Winterbourne, victory would guarantee third place and promotion. For Bassett, on the other hand, a win by two or more goals would have lifted them into that spot required to earn a Hellenic Premier Division berth.
Therefore, given the circumstances, it was no surprise that the first half was an often edgy affair. Both sides were intent on getting forward but consistently failed to produce the vital killer pass, while a number of slack first touches granted the defences an easy get-out clause.
That is not to say opportunities were rare. In the opening quarter of an hour, mishit clearances from both â€˜keepers presented chances for an opener. From the edge of his area, Chris Simsek struck the ball straight at the veteran Shaun Terry. The pace on the ball meant it would take something special to redirect it into the back of the net, but the veteran forward almost managed the feat, sending a curling, first time effort from 30 yards narrowly wide. At the other end, Pete Doolan's failure to connect properly sent the ball spinning across the box and into the path of Sam Vile. Once the forward had sidestepped his marker, he attempted to pick out the near corner, but his strike lacked the necessary precision and wound up in the side netting.
Bassett were then spared their blushes when a soft foul by Craig Bowden on Mainstone was deemed to have occurred outside the box when in fact the contact between the two transpired inches inside.
Persistently posing a danger whether it be from open play or set pieces, three Mainstone deliveries caused all sorts of trouble as half time approached. A floating free kick from the right corner was narrowly headed over by Jack Pitcher, who beat an onrushing Doolan – looking to punch away – to the ball. Minutes later, a low corner to the near post was headed towards goal by Pitcher again, but Doolan was able to dive forwards and smother. Finally, a swirling corner that appeared to be headed out of play caught the wind and dropped onto the crossbar. Bouncing back into the danger area, it took a Shaun Carter headed clearance to preserve deadlock going into half time.
Mainstone would eventually be involved in the move that put ahead Winterbourne ahead on 57 minutes. Pouncing on a loose ball, he clipped a perfectly weighted pass over the top of the Bassett defence for Pitcher to latch onto. With Doolan racing off his line, the former Chippenham Town forward delicately lobbed the â€˜keeper and found the bottom left corner.
Bassett failed to produce an immediate reaction. But following a pause in play caused by one of the visitors sustaining a nasty looking injury the game really kicked into action.
The best the hosts could do until then had been a deflected Terry cross, which sailed across goal and agonisingly wide. However, they were to draw even with just over ten minutes of the ninety remaining. From the left wing, Matt Bown's diagonal pass caused panic in the Winterbourne defence, and in the midst of a misunderstanding between â€˜keeper and defence substitute Daryl Charman was hauled down in the area by Simsek. Up stepped the ever reliable Bown to take the spot kick, and he slotted it into the bottom right corner centimetres away from the visiting keeper's fingertips.
A share of the spoils was to be of no use to either team, most notably Winterbourne, and both teams began attacking with reckless abandon. Bassett sacrificed a defender, pushing Lee Bowen up from centre half to centre forward, while the visitors made a pair of attacking substitutions, injecting some more pace.
Bassett were able to probe in and around the visitor's area, yet failed to challenge Simsek again.
At the opposite end of the pitch, however, Bassett's goal came under siege. From a corner Tristan Day struck the bar with a close range header. In the ensuing scramble, the hosts failed to clear before a thumping drive from the edge of the box was acrobatically tipped wide by Doolan.
Then with time winding down Winterbourne had their chance to seal promotion. Dave Herbert's deft flick set Pitcher racing through on goal. After advancing half the length of the pitch, he attempted to round Doolan only to be dragged down by the home â€˜keeper who had already been booked.
Forced down to ten men, midfielder Richie Carter did the seemingly thankless honour and donned the gloves. The odds were stacked heavily in Pitcher's favour, who went for placement over power with his penalty. Flinging himself to his right, Carter stuck out an arm and batted the ball away to safety before his brother hacked clear.
The script surely could have no further twists.
Yet it did. Deep in Winterbourne territory, James Turner conceded possession and the visitors quickly launched a counter. Racing onto a ball into the left corner, Mainstone tore down the wing, cut inside and arrowed a 20-yard piledriver into the opposite corner. Carter got a hand to the ball, but the venom on the shot was too much.
He was beaten, Bassett were defeated and Winterbourne were up. All with the last kick of the season.
Scoop's Man of the Match: Matt Bown – as ever the focal point of Bassett's most dangerous forays forward, Bown's sublime diagonal cross earned his side their penalty, which he – again – dispatched for his 18th goal of a fine season.
Scoop Rating: 6/10 – the conditions made things difficult, but Bassett put up a brave fight. Winterbourne had the better of the opening half, but Dave Turner's side came to the fore following the restart. However, unable to convert pressure into shots on goal, Bassett were eventually forced to settle for defeat in a captivating contest.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38