Ryan Stanners (2)
Faraday Road, 26th December 2013
It may be the season of goodwill, but after gaining a 2-0 first half advantage Wootton Bassett Town should have shown the spirit of Scrooge away at struggling Newbury. Instead though, Jeff Roberts' team gifted their hosts a point as two late goals earned the hosts a point.
Dominant for much of the game, Bassett later took their foot off the gas, with the midfield and forwards failing to press an error prone Newbury defence. That, and the home side switching to a five man midfield, helped push Bassett ever deeper as the match progressed. And the inevitable eventually happened.
With twenty minutes remaining Gary Dredge tucked away as an outstretched Steve Yeardley could not get enough on the ball to clear from Rob Clare's low cross. Then in injury time, Clare – unmarked eight yards from goal – steered a Danny Langford corner past Steve Allison to equalise.
The match, however, should have been over as a contest an hour in. While Newbury looked dangerous coming forward, they only threatened occasionally in the opening exchanges.
At the other end, meanwhile, their back four could not cope with the pace and movement of Levi Cox and Ryan Stanners. They would have â€˜keeper Kyle Clough to thank though for ensuring Bassett's lead was not greater than two goals.
The opening three minutes almost brought goals at both ends thanks to some stray passing. Within thirty seconds of the opening whistle, a woeful clearance fell to Jordan Roberts and he played in Fraser Joyce, but the right winger shot tamely at Clough.
Then at the other end, Dennis Sorrenti was guilty of playing across the face of goal, Langford stole possession and rounded Allison only to see Sam Ockwell clear his shot off the line.
As the game settled down, Bassett gained the upper hand and should have been ahead on the quarter hour when Cox found himself with just Clough to beat. But rather than putting the â€˜keeper on his backside, the striker sought to curl a shot around him and Clough parried away.
Stanners soon showed how it should be done, racing onto a Cox flick and taking the ball around Clough with ease before easily slotting home.
It seemed easy for the visitors to get in behind the Newbury defence, with Clough often left exposed. And when Joyce raced past full back Jack Young and collected Steve Yeardley's clipped pass in the 31st minute, he won a penalty as the â€˜keeper barrelled into him just inside the box.
Bassett's perfect opportunity to double their advantage was squandered though, as Cox went for power over placement and allowed Clough, diving to his right, to fist away.
Stanners would make it two seven minutes before the break. Cutting across the defence with an expertly timed diagonal run, he collected Dan Lardner's through ball and, with the outside of his right foot, directed the ball past an onrushing Clough and into the bottom right corner.
With such a command of the game, never should Newbury have been allowed to come close to claiming a point. Despite central midfielder Callum Willmoth's probing passing and Langford's energy up front, they did not create a chance from open play until they halved the deficit.
Up to that point, their only chances on goal had come from Bassett errors. That trend continued on 58 minutes when a Lee Stevens slip allowed Ben Wickens to let fire from range, but Allison was able to comfortably deal with his snap shot.
Moments later â€˜keeper Clough made another fine save to prevent Bassett going 3-0 up. A surging Jordan Roberts, which run was brought to an abrupt end on the edge of the box, earned the visitors a free kick in prime shooting range. Lardner curled the ball up and over the wall towards the bottom left corner, but was prevented from celebrating his first Bassett goal as an outstretched glove diverted his effort away from goal.
Momentum then shifted in Newbury's favour. The tactical switch allowed them to outnumber Bassett in midfield, but their life was made easier as the visitors sat deeper and deeper.
Newbury's first soon came. Wickens fed Clare, whose cross from the right evaded Yeardley and Dredge – his run not tracked – snapped up his chance with glee.
Now rattled Bassett were unable to create any further opening of note. Additionally, their now slender lead appeared increasingly vulnerable, and Allison was relieved to see a side foot volley fly over his crossbar with three minutes left after Sorrenti was caught ball watching.
In the final minute Newbury were again inches away from equalising as Shawn Foster beat Allison to the ball and headed Willmoth's corner inches over.
When they again won a corner in stoppage time, they wouldn't be denied. Clare should have been marked. But with nobody around him he was able to steer home.
And with that Bassett had seen three points transform into just one. It may have taken them above Bracknell Town into fourteenth, yet the result gets them no nearer to extricating themselves away from the clutches of the Hellenic League Premier Division's lower reaches.
Bassett's unbeaten run got extended to six games too. Yet this draw felt worse than a number of defeats suffered so far this campaign, and with good reason.
Man of the Match: Ryan Stanners – caused significant problems for the Newbury defence and took his two goals supremely well.
Rating: 5/10 – from the commanding position they were in, Bassett should never have allowed Newbury to get back into the game and claim a point. But a failure to finish the game off and yet more poor defending from a set piece turned what would have won been a big three points into just one.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38
Ryan Stanners (2)