Adam Corcoran (2), Daniel Lardner
Northcourt Road, 16th November 2013
While one goal defeats may elicit feelings more of frustration than of concern, Wootton Bassett Town's fifth consecutive loss by such a margin should come as a reason to worry for Jeff Roberts and his troops.
For the second time in a month, they lost to struggling Abingdon United, this time coming out on the wrong end of a frenzied seven goal feast. It was a cracking afternoon's entertainment for the neutral. But for the visitors to Northcourt Road it was a game whose conclusion could not have been any worse.
Six of Abingdon's nine total points this season have come from victories against Bassett, while victory for Shrivenham against Bracknell Town plunged Roberts' team into the bottom four, with just four points acquired from the last available 27.
Mathew Woodley's stunning hat-trick, consisting of two long range screamers and a sublime free kick, proved pivotal come full time. However, Bassett will be ruing decisions that went against them and, more importantly, significant lapses in concentration and missed chances.
Arguably the game's turning point came on the stroke of half time when Abingdon levelled the game at 3-3. Adam Doyle pumped an unthreatening free kick forward from deep, which â€˜keeper Steve Allison, coming way off his line, failed to grasp. His fall to ground came with a slight bump. And, in seeing this, the defenders around him, rather than clearing their lines, stopped in expectation of a free kick being awarded. No whistle was forthcoming though, and an unchallenged Adam Garner was able to stroke home from close range.
How costly ignoring that golden rule – playing to the whistle – wound up being.
Bassett had made an excellent start, taking the lead on the quarter hour. After taking a pass from Ryan Stanners, Dan Lardner struck a low shot from 20 yards, which caught a deflection and found its way past a wrong-footed Gareth Tucker.
That early lead lasted all of ten minutes though as Woodley equalised in stunning style. Abingdon broke quickly following a failed Bassett attack, and finding himself with too much room thirty yards from goal, the midfielder struck a blistering left-footed drive that a scrambling Allison could do little to prevent finding the left corner of the goal.
A minute later the hosts should have been ahead. Sam Brown failed to clear, allowing Woodley to race down the left. He crossed for as an unmarked Graham Edney but he headed across the face of goal and inches wide.
The softest of free kick awards as Edney fell to ground far too easily under pressure from Steve Yeardley helped set up Abingdon's second nine minutes from the break. Directly in front of goal and twenty yards out, Woodley spun his set piece over the wall and into the bottom right corner.
Quickly, however, Bassett got back on level terms before taking the lead. Both goals came from an unlikely source – Adam Corcoran, who moved from his typical defensive role to the left wing. His first was an instinctive, poacher's finish, ghosting in at the far post to sweep home after Stanners flicked on a Kyle Rigley cross.
Two minutes later he had a second when he cleverly guided a header from the edge of the box into the opposite corner with the help of the post following an excellent Stanners delivery.
Such a response should have provided Bassett the necessary momentum and stung Abingdon going into the break. Yet a disastrous loss of focus after Allison was guilty of spilling Doyle's knock forward meant the hosts would not be forced to chase following the restart.
They were almost made to immediately though as Sam Ockwell rattled the bar with a thunderous long ranger, before a less than confident save from Tucker parried a Corcoran shot to the feet of Sam Collier, who sent the rebound from a tight angle narrowly wide.
A moment of refereeing madness almost altered the game on 52 minutes, but a chat with an assistant led the man in black to his senses. After an Allison punch failed to clear from a corner, the follow up was blasted towards goal and blocked on the line. Abingdon's players excitedly appealed for a handball and the referee seemed to agree, blowing his whistle, pointing to the spot and preparing to administer a red card. However after a lengthy consultation, which heightened confusion amongst the crowd, he thankfully changed his mind.
Spared from being cruelly reduced to ten men, Bassett increasingly began to impose themselves on Abingdon and should have been ahead on the hour. An instinctive, one-handed save from Tucker kept out Ockwell's close range header following a Kyle Rigley cross. The â€˜keeper could do little to stop the ball falling perfectly for Corcoran, but he passed up a golden chance to complete his hat-trick, blazing over from 15 yards.
Quarter of an hour later a dangerous Lardner delivery was headed just wide by Collier.
Then, however, disaster struck as Woodley delivered another thirty yard dagger deep into Bassett hearts with just twelve minutes to go. Lardner had his pocket picked inside his own half, and the ball fell to the Abingdon midfielder who, with too much room, swung his left foot with venom and found the bottom left corner.
No effective response was forthcoming - two half chances that fell to Collier being all Bassett could muster – as tired legs nullified the visiting threat.
With defeat making it five narrow losses on the bounce, the tendency could be to bemoan decisions that have gone against Bassett in recent weeks or point to the odd spot of misfortune that the team have suffered.
Yet such a sustained losing streak points to faults that need to be corrected within the team.
Indiscipline deprived Roberts' team of four key players for the trip to Abingdon; five more yellow cards being collected in this contest will not help on that front.
Fitness too has to be improved. A leggy midfield failing to shut down Woodley allowed him to complete his hat-trick, while conceding late goals has been a feature of many recent games.
Similarly lapses in concentration must be eliminated, especially at set pieces, goals from which usually come courtesy of defensive failings rather than clever attacking.
For a team possessing plenty of talent that is now anchored in the bottom four, putting those things right is an imperative.
Man of the match: Ryan Stanners – involved in all three of Bassett's goals and his skill and willingness to run at the Abingdon defence caused trouble all afternoon.
Rating: 4/10 – it was a game Bassett had to get a result from. Instead they are dealing with another avoidable defeat, and an increasingly precarious league position.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38
Adam Corcoran (2), Daniel Lardner