D Bailey, T Sheppard
Corinium Stadium, 21st February 2015
For the fourth time this season Wootton Bassett Town were forced to face extra time in a cup contest. However, they were unable to make it a hat-trick of victories after an additional half hour of play, as their Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup hopes were ended by Longlevens, who prevailed by the odd goal in five.
With Wednesday's derby against Shrivenham on the horizon, Bassett would likely have preferred not to have gone the distance in this game. Yet Paul Braithwaite will no doubt be bemoaning two incidents that occurred at either end of an entertaining, albeit ultimately frustrating, contest against the Hellenic League Division One West pacesetters.
After just five minutes, Bassett lost Henry Traas to a serious ankle injury, which will sideline the talismanic midfielder for at least five weeks, when he slipped on the small strip of concrete by the Corinium Stadium's advertising boards while trying to keep a ball in play and crumpled to the ground.
Then with seconds remaining in extra time Tyler Sheppard received a straight red card for allegedly throwing an elbow in a scrum that developed when visiting â€˜keeper Ollie Hall failed initially to hold onto a Nathan Gambling free kick before pouncing on the loose ball in a goalmouth scramble.
With nine important league games to come, losing both for an extended period is not what the Bassett boss will have wanted.
Such is life though, and Bassett will cope, especially if those called into a shuffled starting pack perform as they did for long periods of the cup defeat. Given a rare start up front, Joe Hiscock led the line well, linking up effectively with Sheppard and running the channels well. Youngster Hugo Vivash impressed too, and it was his stunning delivery from deep on the right that set up Bassett's equalising goal, put away neatly by Sheppard, shortly before the break.
Prior to that Longlevens, playing neat football and posing a threat when coming forward, had arguably edged the game, and they eventually took the lead on the half hour mark.
Early on Luke Kavanagh fired wide on the volley, while Luke Kuczynski did well to repel strikes from Jack Overthrow and Ryan Dunn.
He was let down by Bassett cheaply giving away possession from their own throw in prior to Longlevens going in front though. The visitors quickly moved the ball forward, and Kuczynski did well to block Dunn's low drive from the edge of the area, but Brad Martin was quickest to react to the loose ball and bundled in from close range.
Bassett reacted in fine fashion with a quality goal, whose origins lay in George Drewitt's calm pass from inside his own box out to right back Steve Yeardley. Vivash took over on the halfway line, burst forwards a few yards and picked out Sheppard on the edge of the area with a peach of a diagonal ball. The forward then outfoxed his marker, before finding the bottom corner with a low shot, aided by a slight deflection.
Longlevens' advantage was restored ten minutes into the second half as Ed Smyllie beat Kuczynski with a header at the near post from a Martin corner.
Again, however, the hosts responded with a superbly worked goal. A flowing cross-field move brought the ball to Yeardley, making an overlapping run, on the right and he delivered an inch-perfect cross which Dan Bailey headed home.
This really opened the game up as both teams sought out a winner. For Bassett, Hiscock drilled over from an angle after a brilliant piece of skills to burst between two defenders. At the other end Craig Martin fired a sidefoot volley straight into the hands of Kuczynski before fellow substitute Dave Merrick steered Brad Martin's right wing cross over the bar from close range in the dying moments of normal time.
That failure to find a decisive fifth goal of the game meant another half hour of play was required.
Early in the opening period of extra time, Sheppard came close twice, forcing a save from Hall before finding the side netting.
It was to be a minute after that second opportunity when the game was decided. Centre half Nathan Hawkins got underneath a header from a long ball pumped forward, an error which Craig Martin seized upon as he fed an onrushing Ryan Hughes with a neat through ball into the left channel. The midfielder continued towards goal before slipping an angled left foot shot past Kuczynski and into the opposite corner.
Thereafter, Bassett's desperate search for a third equaliser ultimately proved in vain. Callum Wright curled over from the edge of the area two minutes after the interval, before Sheppard repeated that feat after having the ball set up perfectly for him by Bailey. Then with five minutes remaining Gambling planted a free header inches over from a teasing Bailey free kick.
Frustrations at having come up short soon boiled over as the final whistle approached, with the ugly confrontation that led to Sheppard receiving his marching orders.
That, combined with defeat and Traas' injury, overshadowed a promising display. The task for Bassett now is to put that behind them in Wednesday's derby.
Man of the Match: George Drewitt – yet another strong display from the centre back, with his commitment in the tackle and quality distribution standing out.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:39
D Bailey, T Sheppard