S English (2)
Wilks Park, 23rd August 2014
Wootton Bassett Town's application and attitude were rewarded in thrilling fashion as they came from 2-0 down to earn a fantastic point and put an end to Flackwell Heath's 100% record.
Full back Sam English was the source of an unlikely brace as he headed in a James Skinner cross with five minutes remaining before thrashing home a dramatic, controversial equaliser in injury time to frustrate Flackwell.
A stunning Dan Rapley goal shortly after the restart and an unfortunate Richie Carter own goal had put the hosts in command. Being in such a position against Bracknell Town on Wednesday night led to heads dropping. But this time Paul Braithwaite's team rose to the occasion to claim a point that they deserved.
Given their strong start to the season, Flackwell were favourites to claim the points, but they failed to create significant chances throughout the match as Bassett's defence – led in sterling fashion by centre halves Carter and Nathan Hawkins – gave little away. Aside from Rapley's moment of magic, they didn't really threaten to score.
That said, opportunities were initially limited at both ends, especially in the opening half.
On six minutes first team debutant Danny Hale forced home stopper Robert Bullivant to tip around his post with a low drive from range, though the ‘keeper made the save look less comfortable than it should have been.
Four Flackwell corners in succession then finally led to an opening for Flackwell, but when Riccardo Cannon swivelled to shoot from twelve yards, the close attention Carter gave him meant his effort was blocked by the defender's leg.
A looping Rapley header soon ensured Ben Mitchell had to be at full attention, but the ball floated harmlessly onto the roof of the net.
For the remainder of the period neat passing in the middle of the park from both teams failed to lead anywhere thanks to strong defensive play.
A half chance did come Bassett's way nine minutes before the interval when a switch of play out to Lewis Chatwin on the right allowed the winger to cross. Dale Richards, who had initiated the move, met the delivery with a header at the far post yet could only direct this across the face of goal.
Flackwell finally managed to get beyond the Bassett backline shortly after the restart. However Rapley twice passed up great opportunities, hooking straight into Mitchell's hands following Mitchel Woodward's lofted pass before he dragged well wide when put through on goals thanks to quick interplay between Cannon and substitute Thomas James-Peddle.
He quickly made amends for that wastefulness though, scoring a peach of a goal with 50 minutes on the clock. The ball was worked out to Rapley on the left edge of the box and he stepped inside Pete Sykes before wrapping his boot around a beautiful curling strike that picked out the top right corner, leaving Mitchell no chance.
A neat move involving Dan Bailey and Hale almost led to an equaliser midway through the half as the latter's defence splitting pass was latched onto by Skinner. One-on-one with Bullivant, the midfielder failed to steer his shot into the bottom corner though.
Bassett then conceded an avoidable second with thirteen minutes to go to seemingly put the result beyond doubt. Rapley received a quick free kick from Woodward in the left corner and, after riding a Sykes, challenge delivered a weighted cross which Carter connected with at the near post only to head into his net.
With a comfortable lead and Bassett's previous troubles so far this campaign when falling behind, Flackwell could have expected to make their advantage count.
Yet they continued to meet rather spirited resistance as Bassett remained composed with their play despite having to chase.
And Braithwaite, who had moved from a four to three man backline to try and salvage something, saw his team duly rewarded five minutes from time. Skinner teased a superb first time cross into the box and, at the left post, English fought to get in front of his marker and planted a header beyond the reach of Bullivant.
Confidence revived, Bassett continued to push forward and a minute after the deficit was halved, Gambling sent a rasping 30-yard drive inches over.
That appeared to be as close as the visitors would get to a point. But then they were awarded a free kick five yards inside their own half. From five yards in front of that innocuous position, Mitchell pumped the ball into the box where it fell to Chatwin. He nudged the ball back a yard or two into an opening which English quickly filled and the full back proceeded to blast beyond Bullivant before racing off to celebrate completing a superb recovery.
Flackwell's players were equally as quick to storm down the pitch, confronting the referee's assistant working the Bassett half of the pitch. After the kick was taken he had waved his flag because Mitchell had cheekily stolen five yards, only to cease doing so when he had failed to gain the referee's attention. A short conference ensued, but the man in black soon decided the goal would stand, infuriating the home team even further.
The visitors, on the other hand, couldn't have been happier. Their fine display had been justly rewarded.
Man of the Match: Nathan Hawkins – a rock in the heart of defence, he helped keep the dangerous Ricardo Cannon quiet and was a composed presence throughout when playing the ball out from the back.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:38
S English (2)