Wilks Park, 24 August 2013
What a difference a single point can make. A battling, deserved 1-1 draw away at highly fancied Flackwell Heath allowed Wootton Bassett Town to belatedly get up and running for the season.
Still, were it not for the exceptional Steve Allison redeeming himself in the last minute with a double save from a penalty he had given away, Jeff Roberts' team would have left Wilks Park empty-handed.
After failing to collect a challenging cross, Allison brought down Gavin James in a desperate attempt to reclaim the loose ball. Taking the spot kick was Adam Dickens, who had earlier put the hosts in the lead, but he saw his confidently struck effort brilliantly parried away by the ‘keeper diving to his right.
Danger had not been completely averted though, James being in the perfect position to tuck away the rebound. However Allison sprung back to his feet, leapt in the opposite direction and got the faintest of fingertips on the ball to divert it around the post. From the resulting corner Ashleigh James' free header thankfully sailed wide, and that was that – a point secured in the toughest of circumstances.
The majority of the game's better had fallen to Flackwell, but to say they were dominant throughout would be harsh on their visitors. Indeed it was not until the closing stages when they really started to stretch Bassett.
And it had also taken them a set piece to gain the lead, Adam Dickens blasting in from twenty yards out, his strike leaving Allison wrong-footed, after Steve Yeardley had been harshly punished for a handball just before the half hour.
Prior to that goal, the best opening arguably fell to Lee Stevens, who, featuring again as a makeshift centre forward, forced Robert Bullivant to smother well at his near post with a firm effort following Alex Rigley's reverse pass.
The remainder of the half was a tight affair, with Flackwell unable to press home their advantage despite holding the lead. Zac Gill's dipping half volley sailed just over before, at the other end, an awkward Bullivant punch almost sent Rigley's long range curling effort into the back of the net.
Bassett were fast out of the blocks after the restart. Kyle Rigley came close to equalising with a free kick that narrowly missed the target on 48 minutes, while Stevens – in behind the defence – opted to shoot from an angle rather than square to Rory Worthington and fired wide.
Those narrow misses could have proven costly but two stunning reflex saves ensured the hosts' lead stayed at one on the hour. Firstly, Allison acrobatically tipped Gavin James' free header over his bar, before the ‘keeper used his feet to parry a low drive from the edge of the box to safety.
Seemingly as a thank you to their ‘keeper, Bassett went on and equalised on 67 minutes. Stevens raced onto a quick throw in the right corner and outmuscled his marker before pulling back for Rory Worthington, who had delayed his run and provided a cool side-foot finish.
Much effort had expended to stay in the game and grab that equaliser, which soon showed. And taking advantage of tiring Bassett legs, Flackwell threw everything at their visitors, whose backs were firmly against the wall in the final quarter of an hour.
But demonstrating a desire to finally notch a mark in the points column, Bassett doggedly held out.
Some luck was had, particularly when Ashleigh James' deft flick on a low Bryan Taylor cross flew across the face of goal and out of play.
Minutes later though determined defending kept the scores knotted. Taylor's corner bounced around the six yard box before the ball was knocked towards goal and hacked off the line. A fine saving tackle at the feet of James from Sean Bailey then relieved the pressure momentarily.
The final act would be provided by Allison as the game entered stoppage time. That double save was some way to finish a fine competitive debut.
Man of the Match: Steve Allison – returned from suspension with an outstanding display in his first competitive Bassett match. His foul could have provided Flackwell with a winner, but the stopper redeemed himself superbly.
Rating: 7/10 – the final moments of the game weren't the prettiest – and showed how important fitness will be in the Hellenic Premier. However resolute defending made sure of a valuable, deserved point. For the majority of the match Bassett matched their hosts and crafted some good openings.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38