Scours Lane, 26th October 2013
After matching Hellenic League Premier Division leaders Reading Town for 88 minutes, a controversial free kick and lapse in concentration condemned Wootton Bassett Town to a cruel 2-1 defeat.
With the two sides headed for their second draw against one another in the space of a month, Sam Ockwell – who had performed admirably filling in at centre half for the suspended Shaun Carter – was harshly adjudged to have handled, the ball appearing to have brushed his shoulder.
Thirty yards out from goal and towards the right wing, Danny Horscroft whipped in a fine delivery to the left post where Tristam Dennis, alone with only a teammate as company, guided a header into the opposite bottom corner.
Leaving the defender unmarked was a failure for which Bassett only had themselves to blame; similarly, Reading's opening goal of the game followed a horrible error from the visitors.
Nevertheless, the hand referee Neil Templey had in swaying the game's outcome in awarding that late free kick for an offence that never was cannot be denied. Nor was it the first time on the afternoon that he had made an egregious error of judgment which went against Bassett.
Twice within five second half minutes he denied the visitors what appeared to be stonewall penalties. And on both occasions it was Sam Packer who was told to get back onto his feet.
On the hour the midfielder was laughably booked for a dive when it was clear to most observers in the ground that he had been caught by a flailing leg after twisting his way between and bursting past two Reading defenders.
Moments later he played an intricate one-two with Ryan Stanners on the edge of the box and, when seeking to round home custodian Nathan Silver, he was sent tumbling to the floor. Yet again, however, Bassett's appeals for a spot kick were refused.
Typically, it is those placed higher in the league who benefit most over the course of the game from such unfair decisions. And that is caused by their ability to better craft openings and take advantage of the opportunities that arise.
That was the case in this affair. In the game's first four minutes the hosts spurned two fantastic chances to take the lead as Bassett were slow out of the blocks. Imani Likita found himself through on goal within sixty seconds, but blazed over before Horscroft sent a curling free kick towards the top right corner which young ‘keeper Curtis Meare somehow managed to glove over the bar.
On twenty minutes they again threatened when Likita outmuscled Lee Stevens in the left corner and cut back for Graham Lewis, who could not find the target from a tight angle.
They were soon presented with a chance they could not spurn. Bassett were guilty of overplaying deep inside their half and on more than one occasion in the sequence of play it appeared as though the ball was set to be turned over to Reading. That eventually happened, Kyle Rigley having the misfortune to be the guilty partner as his pass back to Sam Ockwell did not carry the necessary weight. Lewis then raced onto the free ball, rounded a stranded Meare and tapped in.
For the remainder of the half Reading held the upper hand and almost doubled their lead when Josh Blackwood's low free kick was deflected inches over by Adam Corcoran, while Likita struck firmly but straight at Meare following Toby Nowell's weaving run.
After the restart Bassett began to place their hosts under pressure. With 52 minutes on the clock, a Jason Milhench flick forward caused all kinds of trouble for Jason Wagner and Ross Herridge who both slipped. Sam Collier looked set to pounce on the ball, but was just beaten to it by an onrushing Silver.
The visitors should then have had the chance to equalise and potentially take the lead as Packer made his presence felt only to be punished by poor officiating.
Those mishaps could have proven critical as Likita headed wide from close range while unmarked, but Bassett eventually made their mark with ten minutes remaining.
From the left corner, Packer rolled a pass back to Jordan Roberts who delivered a stunning cross to the far post, where Milhench had ghosted unnoticed and coolly sent a side foot volley beyond Silver.
It was just reward for Bassett's performance as they frustrated and took the game to their opponents, and a point seemed likely.
There were scares. A Horscroft corner was headed onto the bar and the follow up, with Meare beyond the ball after unsuccessfully claiming the delivery, smashed over. Lewis also came close with an audacious hooked effort with his back to goal. But Bassett appeared to have weathered this late surge.
That was until referee Templey put whistle to mouth and Bassett failed to defend the resulting set piece.
Man of the Match: Curtis Meare – an assured display from the young ‘keeper, in which he made some crucial saves. His acrobatic tip of Horscroft's early free kick was sublime.
Rating: 6/10 – it was a performance that merited Bassett a point. During the first half, playing against a stiff wind, they found themselves under the cosh, but were able to limit their hosts. Jeff Roberts' team arguably held the upper hand after the restart and had certain crucial decisions gone in their favour and certain mistakes not been made, they would have finished the season undefeated against Reading Town.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38