Larges Lane, 10th August 2013
For Wootton Bassett Town, opening day was an eye-opener. Jeff Roberts and his troops discovered just what life in the Hellenic League Premier Division is going to be like – tough – as they fell to a 4-1 defeat at fellow promoted side Bracknell Town.
Arguably the most telling lesson to be taken from the loss was that at this level the quality of striker is far and above that defences have to deal with in Division One West.
The Robins, fourth in Division One East last season, have strengthened heavily over the summer. In particular they have added firepower up front, snapping up Ben Knight and Garry Sargeant, who, respectively, joined from Ascot United and Binfield – both top seven teams.
And the pair would grab a goal each, with Sargeant teeing up the home side's third.
Bassett, bar a twenty minute spell at three down in the second period, were second best. At the back, centre halves Liam Edmondson and Shaun Carter fell for the clever movement of the Bracknell forwards. Meanwhile the midfield lacked shape and often found themselves playing too high, providing the hosts with plenty of room to play in. At the other end of the pitch front pair Lee Stevens and Shaun Terry, when not getting caught offside, lacked support.
Nor did it help that Bassett failed to cope with Tom Barratt's long throws. Flung in with a flat trajectory and the speed of a bomb blasted out of a cannon, two of Bracknell's goals came from his arrows including the first.
Just six minutes in Danny Oliphant was able to redirect his throw back across goal and Sargeant hooked the ball in at the near post from close range.
Almost immediately the visitors were presented with a chance to get on terms. Using his strength to offer his marker no direct route to the ball, Stevens was tripped in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Captain Shaun Terry did not hesitate, quickly taking the penalty, but his effort was poor and home â€˜keeper James Hawtrey was able to parry away easily.
Terry then had the chance to make up for his miss, but his glancing header sailed just wide following a Stevens flick on.
If the penalty miss had been a dagger in the heart, Bracknell soon twisted the knife, doubling their advantage. Michael Watson's long diagonal ball into the left corner caught out the Bassett defence and forced young â€˜keeper Harry Ellis off his line. Sam Barratt beat him to the ball though and squared for Knight to tap in. To compound matters, there was a suspicion of offside.
But when the third came just before the half hour mark Bassett could have few complaints. Losing possession far too easily, Bracknell were allowed to break quickly. Sargeant, dropping off and bringing his marker with him, collected a pass on the halfway line and slipped through Sam Barratt, who coolly lobbed an onrushing Ellis.
It could even have been four before the break as Oliphant saw a side footed effort cleared off the line from Tom Barratt's corner, while Sam Barratt sent a 20-yard curler inches wide after Bassett were guilty of overplaying at the back and cheaply conceded the ball.
After the break Roberts' team, now playing down the substantial slope, had the better of things. Early on, from a Tyler Sheppard corner Liam Edmondson hooked agonisingly wide.
Then, following a couple hairy moments at the other end, which included Bracknell getting the ball into the net again though Knight was ruled offside, Bassett came into their own and were able to get a goal back midway through the period.
Adam Corcoran delivered a towering cross from the deep and Sam Ockwell, ghosting in at the far post, was able to poke home after seeing his initial header parried.
Finally with some momentum chances began to accumulate. With quarter of an hour remaining, Sheppard forced an acrobatic save from Hawtrey as the hosts' â€˜keeper just managed to get a glove to a powerful left-footed drive. From the resulting corner Stevens found the bar after adding a flick to an Edmondson header. A surging run from Alex Rigley then saw Hawtrey forced to save low.
But with one fling into the box, Bracknell were able to kill the game as Joel Davidson headed in another Tom Barratt bullet with twelve minutes remaining.
The fourth added further emphasis to a convincing Bracknell victory. For Bassett - welcome to the Hellenic Premier.
Man of the match: Ryan Stanners – after a couple under-hit passes early on Stanners grew into the game and provided glimpses of his passing ability, spraying the ball around confidently and with precision.
Rating: 4/10 – while Bassett had chances - which despite the score could potentially have earned a point had they been taken, they made life too easy for Bracknell, whose clinical strike force made the visitors pay.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38