Nathan Gambling, Dale Richards
Corinium Stadium, 4th April 2015
Wootton Bassett Town may have seen a two goal lead slip out of their hands, but they won't be too disappointed with the point they claimed against Oxford City Nomads in light of the second half barrage they were subjected to by their visitors.
First half goals from Nathan Gambling, who stroked home from the spot, and Dale Richards provided enough of a buffer, allowing Bassett to extend their unbeaten league run to seven games. Yet Paul Braithwaite's team certainly rode their luck.
The Nomads had demonstrated their attacking quality in the opening period, stroking the ball around at will. Yet their desire to try and pass the ball into the back of net allowed the hosts' defence to sit deep and fend off most attacks.
That allowed Bassett to eke out their advantage, albeit largely against the run of play.
The game's first real opening had fallen to the home side when, after Oxford had been penalised for Robert Gosling picking up a backpass, Dan Bailey smashed a low drive towards goal which the visitors' â€˜keeper did well to parry.
He was unable to keep out Gambling's coolly taken penalty 20 minutes in, a spot kick which had been awarded thanks to Rubin Lago's handball on the edge of the area.
It was soon 2-0 as Nathan Hawkins launched a free kick from the deep into the box, which Richie Carter headed back across goal, causing panic in the Nomads defence. Richards seized upon this, slicing a right foot shot from close range that crept in off the right upright.
For all of their play in the final third, Oxford had yet to trouble the Bassett defence. But those two goals flicked on a switch that almost led to an immediate reply. Louis Joyce collected a corner into his feet from Zac McEachran, rolled his man and fired towards goal only to see Bailey block his shot on the line. The rebound fell for John Rixon who produced a snap effort that rattled the bar.
Moments later Bailey could have been a hero at the other end as he chested down a Gambling pass before managing to wrap his leg around a volley that appeared destined for the top corner, only to see Gosling climb high to tip over.
Tyler Sheppard then found himself in good position to add what would likely have been a game ending third but he poked straight at the â€˜keeper after latching onto a Carter through ball.
Unable to stretch their lead any further, Bassett were given a taste of what they would be in for following the restart when Lago made an arcing run inside from the left to avoid the offside trap and race onto McEachran's defence splitting pass. Through on goal, he should have scored, but was thwarted by Kurtis Sharkey who made a fingertip save to divert the ball around the post.
Once play resumed after the interval, the hosts found themselves pinned deep and struggling to get out of their own half. That problem worsened as Bassett legs tired as they were constantly having to chase and in the end a great deal of thanks was owed to â€˜keeper Sharkey to thank for preserving a point.
Opportunities continually opened up for Oxford from the hour mark onwards. Sighs of relief were breathed when Hawkins cleared off the line as Joyce sought to stroke home from a tight angle and when Matt Peake-Pijnen headed wide from a Joyce cross with an open goal at his mercy.
With fifteen minutes remaining Nomads finally made their pressure count as John Rixon – a player who seems to enjoy playing Bassett – pounced on a loose ball, drove down the left channel into the box and arrowed into the opposite bottom corner.
Sensing blood, Oxford continued to surge forward. A quick free played into Joyce would have brought the equaliser three minutes after they had halved the deficit, but a double reaction save from Sharkey denied him.
The Bassett â€˜keeper was helpless to prevent the leveller when it did arrive with six minutes to go though. Nomads worked the ball to substitute Daide Parente in the left corner, who set a neat pass into the path of Rixon, lurking unguarded a few yards outside the box. And with one swing of his right boot, the midfielder thundered a drive into the top corner, Sharkey having no time to react.
The game's final act came when Sharkey smothered at the feet of Kieran Davis as Bassett clung on, literally, for the draw.
Man of the Match: Kurtis Sharkey – conceded twice, but could do little to prevent either. Otherwise the stopper was in fine form, making a trio of saves from one-on-one situations that helped preserve Bassett's unbeaten league streak.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:39
Nathan Gambling, Dale Richards