Court Place Farm, 22nd February 2014
After six frustrating weeks spent cursing the impact of the weather, there was always scope for Wootton Bassett Town's display in their first fixture back to be rusty. Yet, never would it have been expected to be as miserly as the team's performance was in a 2-0 defeat at Oxford City Nomads.
Short of any attacking nous and frequently troubled at the back, Jeff Roberts' team were second best throughout and were fortunate that their hosts only managed the two goals, both scored in the second half through Louis Joyce.
Equally maddening was the return of Bassett's disciplinary troubles. In all, they acquired six yellow cards, two of which were dished out to Lee Stevens in the space of fifteen second half minutes. The second, following the award of a free kick to his team, was for needless dissent; better has to be expected of one of the squad's most senior players. And it goes without saying: as one of the best centre halves in the division, Bassett are better when Stevens is on the pitch rather than off it for easily avoidable reasons.
The dismissal really compounded Stevens' day as it was his intercepted pass, intended for defensive partner Shaun Carter, which set in motion the move that led to Joyce's first decisively taken goal two minutes after the restart.
A cagey first half should have left Bassett with hope of taking something from the game. That was despite the rare openings created in the period largely falling to the hosts.
During the opening quarter of an hour, Jamie Mundy saw a low shot from the edge of the box saved low at the near post by Steve Allison before the ‘keeper saved smartly at the feet of Zac McEachran after he had been set free by Andrew Styles' through ball.
At the other end, Ryan Stanners stung Juan Martin's palms with a 20-yard drive.
Allison was soon called into action again, tipping around the post to keep Styles' low curler out on 30 minutes.
Finely poised at the break, the game's momentum quickly swung.
Taking possession of an Oxford clearance, Stevens turned towards his own goal in order to pass to Carter. However, the pressing of McEachran allowed the clever forward to steal control. The ball was worked out to Mundy on the right and, after driving to the byline, he cut back for Joyce who slammed a shot past Steve Allison.
After being reduced to ten men, Bassett came under further pressure. Midway through the second period, John Rixon had the ball in the net following a neat one-two with McEachran, but was to be denied by the linesman's flag for offside. A powerful, awkward Joyce shot from the edge of the area was then parried over by Allison.
With fifteen minutes to go though, Bassett eventually caved under the duress they were experiencing. The game was now beyond them. Oxford broke decisively, with McEachran again initiating the attack with a charge down the left. On the edge of the box he set to Jack Self, whose diagonal through ball found Joyce alone in a position from which he could not miss.
It could have been more later on with Self rattling the bar from a tight angle and Adam Morris forcing Allison to tip onto the woodwork with a curling 25-yard free kick. Sandwiching those chances was a rare opportunity for Bassett. But there was to be no consolation as Juan Morris parried away Ryan Stanners' shot following a bursting run and square pass from debutant Richie Miles.
Had he scored, it would arguably have been less than Bassett deserved on an extremely anti-climatic afternoon.
Rating: 4/10 – given the length of time since Bassett had last played, a rusty performance could have been forgiven. But the team's display was more than rusty. Instead it was lethargic, disjointed and one of the most disappointing of the season so far.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38