The Elms, 14th December 2013
The latest instalment of the Wootton Bassett Town-Highworth Town grudge match may not acquire itself a permanent place in the memory of those there to witness it. But the 1-1 draw, fought in extreme conditions thanks to a howling wind, will be seen by Bassett as another step in the right direction.
Bassett, who took the lead through Levi Cox with quarter of an hour to go only to see Matty Bennett equalise seconds later, have now gone four games unbeaten in the Hellenic League Premier Division.
Three draws along with the midweek win against Binfield have helped Jeff Roberts's side edge out of danger and close the gap on the sides placed immediately above them. And with Newbury and Holyport – two teams currently sitting below Bassett – to play over Christmas, it will no doubt be hoped that further progress can be made to reverse the damage inflicted by a troublesome October and November.
At The Elms, they were able to continue this good mini run despite not being at their best, though this was largely a result of the howling wind blowing from end to end. This mitigated against any advantage provided by playing down the pitch's notable slope as the visitors were in the opening period.
Instead they spent large periods of the opening period camped inside their own half. While this might have been expected to play into Highworth's hands, they were frustrated by a sturdy Bassett rearguard and limited to just a couple of speculative long range Bennett and TJ Bohane drives which came nowhere close to hitting the target.
All in all, it was a first half of no real action, with the only moments of note coming when referee Declan O'Shea reached for his pocket to dish out a yellow card. And this happened all too frequently. Highworth's Steve Bunting and Lewis Page justifiably received cautions for crunching fouls, while Jordan Roberts was booked for needless dissent. However, it was perplexing to see Dan Lardner have his name jotted down in the referee's notebook for the most minor of trips in the 26th minute.
To his credit Lardner did not let this impact his game, and he battled gamely for the remainder of the game, his presence ending a number of Highworth attacks. This was arguably his best performance so far in Bassett colours.
Following the restart the game started to kick into gear, with Adam Corcoran heading narrowly wide and Ryan Stanners stinging Gary Stevens' palms following Roberts' switch of play in the opening five minutes of the half.
Steve Allison was first called into action on the hour and answered brilliantly. Left winger Matty Horsell, who made life extremely difficult for Steve Yeardley, opened up space to shoot on the edge of the box and fired towards the top left corner, but a firm glove from Allison tipped his effort on the bar. The danger had not been averted though, and it took a block from Sam Ockwell to divert Bohane's follow up wide.
Bassett failed to clear the resulting corner, the ball falling to Horsell who crossed for Bennett at the far post. Allison was equal to the former Bassett man's low drive though and parried wide.
Having survived that brief period of Highworth pressure, Bassett were next to come close to breaking the deadlock when Lardner's clever low free kick curled towards the bottom right corner, forcing Stevens to stoop low and tip onto the post.
Eventually the goal the second half was promising came. And it did so courtesy of a swift Bassett counter and a defensive slip up from Highworth's Aaron Maximen. After the visitors cleared a corner, Stanners chased down the loose ball, assuming possession on the right wing before drilling a low diagonal pass, which Maximen failed to deal with.
Levi Cox, somewhat surprised to find the ball at his feet, was to be the beneficiary and, with just Stevens to beat, he coolly round the ‘keeper and slotted home.
The lead lasted less than two minutes, however. Atoning for his error, Maximen flicked on Tony Joyce's corner at the near post and Bennett pounced, flicking in from close range with his shoulder.
A first draw between the teams in 26 Hellenic League meetings wound up being a fair result. Yet more composure in advanced positions from Stanners, Cox and substitute Sam Packer could have swung the game in Bassett's favour as they sent final passes stray with the hosts outnumbered at the back.
There should be little frustration about the game's outcome though as Bassett claimed their seventh draw of the year, all of which have come against teams currently positioned in the Hellenic Premier's top eight.
Man of the Match: Dan Lardner – battled away in the heart of midfield, limiting the impact Highworth's Richie Saunders and Tony Joyce had on the game, while he helped thwart a number of potentially dangerous attacks from the home side.
Rating: 7/10 – the conditions did not make life easy for either team, but Bassett produced a solid display. It was some feat that, playing against the wind, the visitors were able to limit Highworth so much in the first half that the best they could must were a handful of speculative, long range shots. As the second half opened up, Bassett's young forward players also proved they could be a handful – Highworth were made to earn the draw too.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38