The forthcoming season may be Wootton Bassett Town's first in the Hellenic League Premier Division since 2010/11. Further the new campaign may also be Jeff Roberts' and Drew Youngsam's inaugural taste of the Hellenic after moving over from Western League Calne Town.
Nevertheless, Bassett's new managerial duo have set their sights on success, a top six finish and tilt at the Wiltshire Senior Cup crown being their aims. They're certainly lofty ambitions. But why not aim high?
Bassett will no doubt find the competition tough – the first month alone will demonstrate this with fixtures against the highly fancied Binfield and Wantage Town and dark horses Brimscombe and Thrupp, last year's Division One West champions. The opening pair of games – away at Bracknell Town, promoted from Division One East despite finishing 4th, and home against Highworth Town – will be no easy welcome to life at a higher level either.
However, Roberts and Youngsam have forged a strong squad that will be certain to pose questions to opponents.
Last season's strong back four of Craig Bowden, Adam Corcoran, Shaun Carter and Liam Edmondson remains intact, with further defensive reinforcements including Jonny Aitkenhead and Lee Stevens adding extra ballast. Having fractured a metatarsal against New College, the former will have to wait for his first competitive appearance in a Bassett shirt for five seasons though. Still, his return will be worth the wait. Behind them, ‘keeper Steve Alison – an impressive shotstopper who commands his area - strengthens a key position.
Club captain Steve Yeardley will also have more able support in central midfield, with Ryan Stanners and Sam Ockwell being two young, quality distributors of the ball. On the wings, Tyler Sheppard and Rory Worthington provide youthful tenacity and demonstrable skill, while Alex Rigley – who will also feature up front – is a class act with significant Southern League experience under his belt.
Losing prolific forward Mark Barnes may have hurt, but poacher and creator Shaun Terry remains, with Levi Cox – a fine finisher with great pace – to join him once fit.
With depth and quality, the correct balance to be competitive for what will be a long, challenging season has been found.
Bassett's preseason has seen a mixed bag in terms of results, but the overall level of performances has been high, with Roberts' team demonstrating a commitment to building from the back and playing patient, progressive football.
In their opening fixture away at Pewsey, a cool first time finish from Terry following a flowing move down the left and Sean Bailey pass proved the only goal of the game.
At home against New College, the hosts wasted a number of openings before falling to two second half goals from their Division One West visitors.
A second defeat then followed at Southern League Cirencester Town, Bassett's landlords for the coming two seasons. The Centurions raced to a 2-0 lead before defender Bowden halved the deficit. However, Cirencester added another following the restart to triumph 3-1.
A trip to Wiltshire League Marlborough Town proved more difficult than was necessarily expected, but a Rigley hat-trick secured a victory by the odd goal in five.
The visit to Swindon Supermarine produced the same score, though this time Bassett were on the losing end. However, Bassett acquitted themselves brilliantly. Sheppard and Yeardley scored in the opening ten minutes, stunning the hosts, and it could even have been more. Marine were able to get a goal back in the opening period before two goals in the final five minutes, including a last minute penalty, completed the comeback.
Finally, at home against Calne Town a first half Lilywhites penalty grabbed a 1-0 win for the visitors.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38