N Gambling (3), D Bailey, S Robertson
The Elms, 17th March 2015
Nathan Gambling scored a second half hat-trick as a rampant team display delivered Wootton Bassett Town an emphatic 5-1 derby victory over Highworth Town.
Thirteen years had passed since Bassett last tasted victory at The Elms, and this victory was made even sweeter as the three points lifted the team into eleventh, above Oxford City Nomads. And with five games – all at home – now remaining in this season, there's a great opportunity to ensure a record high finish in the Hellenic League Premier Division.
Highworth, also have their eyes on a record, that being a place at Wembley in the FA Vase final. With the first leg of their semi-final on Saturday, it was therefore little surprise to see John Fisher field a rotated team. It was by no means weak though; the presence of ‘keeper Gary Stevens and top scorer TJ Bohane, two of the main heroes of their superb Vase run, in the starting eleven attested to that.
That selection may have been intended to frighten Bassett. But the visitors were in no way cowed and were on their game from the opening whistle.
With less than two minutes on the dock Bassett were ahead. James Skinner played a short free kick from the left wing to Dan Bailey and the midfielder struck a daisycutter from the edge of the area that Stevens got a hand to but failed to keep out.
It should really have been two in the sixth minute when a blocked Callum Wright effort fell to Gambling, who had just the ‘keeper to beat. But Stevens redeemed himself and parried away.
In a rather frantic opening, Highworth – whose play was sharp in the final third – carved out two chances. The first saw Darren Smart arrow a low shot from twenty yards just wide of the left post before Bohane rose to head a Liam Edmondson cross onto the bar.
Bassett quickly re-established authority though. Gambling was soon again denied at point blank range by Stevens as he flicked a shot towards goal following a driving run and cross from Dale Richards.
Then just before the half hour an expertly worked move doubled the lead. Steve Yeardley picked up possession on the right and burst inside before playing a pass into Gambling. With this back to goal, the forward steered a neat pass around the corner to strike partner Steve Robertson, who struck firmly into the bottom right corner.
Again the advantage should have been extended further, but once more Stevens kept his side from being dead and buried before the break with a pair of saves at Robertson's feet.
That meant that, although in a commanding position, Bassett were one wobble away from an uncomfortable half time team talk. They duly suffered one, their grievances with Olly Ballinger – who dished out five yellow cards to the visitors as half time approached – serving to distract them from the task in hand.
And Highworth made their pressure count as James Skinner handled from a corner and Bohane sent Kurtis Sharkey the wrong way.
With a handful of players one misstep away from an early shower, it was imperative that Bassett refocused once the whistle to start the second half was blown.
To their credit, they returned to the field sharp and determined to restore their two goal lead.
In fact, a quick-fire double from Gambling made it 4-1 by the hour to effectively decide the outcome.
His first came after a stunning, ruthless counter. Bassett broke decisively from a Highworth corner that failed to beat the first man. Yeardley clipped a diagonal ball for Skinner to race onto. He then threaded a pass through to Gambling, who buried beyond an exposed Gary Eggleton, a half time substitute.
Almost immediately from kick off Highworth conceded possession, and to compound matters for the hosts, Robertson was wrestled to the ground inside the box by Gareth Davies, who received his marching orders. From the spot Gambling coolly stroked home.
With the extra man, Bassett pressed high against a Highworth defence who were forced into frequently giving the ball away. Using this extra possession, the visitors stroked the ball around with further confidence, and numerous attacks could, and perhaps should, have made it five much earlier.
In the end it wasn't until the final kick of the game that Bassett made it a handful of goals for the evening as a poor touch from Eggleton when receiving a backpass was seized upon by Gambling and he completed his hat-trick by slotting in from a tight angle.
Bassett – five games unbeaten in the league - are now rolling. The goal is now to keep that momentum going right until season's end.
Man of the Match: Nathan Gambling – the forward hassled the Highworth defence all night, took his three goals well and played a delightful measured pass to set up Steve Robertson. Were it not for some fine saves, he could have finished the night with more than just a hat-trick too.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:39
N Gambling (3), D Bailey, S Robertson