S Robertson (2), D Bailey, N Gambling
Corinium Stadium, 6th April 2015
The meeting of Wootton Bassett Town and Brimscombe and Thrupp - two of the Hellenic League Premier Division's form teams - certainly didn't disappoint.
Attacking play dominated as both sides, hoping to extend sustained unbeaten runs, threw caution to the wind. And in the end, it was Bassett who rode out victorious, a ruthless second half display carrying them to a decisive 4-1 triumph that lifts them to tenth in the table.
In a free-flowing, end to end game, it took an hour until the deadlock was eventually broken. Up until then the woodwork and fine glovework from both Luke Kuczynski and Brimscombe stopper Daniel Hobbs had preserved parity.
But once Dan Bailey curled a sublime effort beyond Daniel Hobbs in the Brimscombe goal, Bassett stormed into gear. Steve Robertson and Nathan Gambling added to the lead with two vastly contrasting goals. And, although the visitors did get on the scoresheet from the spot through Ash Caldwell - who had previously failed to convert a penalty when two down, Robertson quickly restored the hosts' three goal lead.
Goals have been a given in recent weeks in clashes involving both teams. Brimscombe's five straight league wins heading into the contest had generated twenty-five goals, while Bassett's previous three fixtures had seen an average of four goals per game.
It was therefore a great surprise that neither â€˜keeper was forced to root the ball out from the back of the net either one was protecting in the first half. Making that fact even more astonishing was the number of opportunities created.
With the game only six minutes old, Bailey fizzed in a low corner that fell for Gambling just six yards from goal. The forward swivelled to shoot on the turn, but Hobbs burst off his line, diving forwards to brilliantly parry away.
At the other end, a quick counter saw Brimscombe outnumber their hosts and when David Woodfield crossed into the box for Ollie Pitt it seemed as though they would edge in front, but his effort was blocked.
A fine move from Bassett as they broke through the middle presented Gambling with a one-on-one opportunity. However, he was only able to drag across goal. An alert Tyler Sheppard kept play alive and he teased in a delivery from the right wing which Bailey glanced wide.
Where guile and smooth football had failed, the teams resorted to trying power. That too did not produce a goal. Robertson and Ben Deakin narrowly missed the target with firmly struck rising efforts, before, on the half hour, Bailey rattled the crossbar with a first time drive hit with a concussive level of venom. The ball – seemingly delirious after the blow it had taken – then almost spun back across the line after it had come back down to earth.
That was not the last of the action in the opening period. Ten minutes before the interval, Karl Nash seized upon a poor throw in intended for George Drewitt and fed Deakin a through pass to leave him with just Kuczynski to beat only for the left winger to drag wide. Robertson was next to pass up an opening in a tete-a-tete with the goalie. Jumping on Christien Turner's poor back header, the Bassett frontman tried to place the ball in the bottom right corner only to be denied by a flying Hobbs.
The high level of goalkeeping continued after the restart. A long clearance upfield left Nash vying with last man George Drewitt for possession, and when the Bassett centre half went to ground appearing to have been tripped, the burly frontman was left alone with just Kuczynski to beat. Coming out to close the angle, the home â€˜keeper stood his ground and repelled Nash's placed shot. Hobbs showed his qualities again moments later, flicking around the post as Robertson sought to lift the ball over him.
Finally, with sixty minutes on the clock, Hobbs' resistance was broken. It took a fabulous strike to do so, Bailey curling from twenty yards out into the only portion of the top right corner that the â€˜keeper was unable to cover after he had collected a chest down from Gambling and fought off his man to find room to shoot.
A strike of equal quality brought the second twelve minutes later. Under pressure from an advancing Sheppard, Hobbs, having raced out of his area, scuffed a clearance directly to Robertson. Taking one touch, Robertson then swept a perfectly weighted right foot shot from more than forty yards that sailed in over a despairing Hobbs.
While now in the driving seat, Bassett knew from their experience Saturday against Oxford City Nomads that a two goal advantage was by no means safe. And when Nathan Hawkins swung a clumsy leg that sent Sam Blackie tumbling in the box after a free kick from the left wing hadn't been cleared, the visitors had the perfect opportunity to reapply the pressure to Paul Braithwaite's team. However, Caldwell crashed his penalty against the bar, much to Bassett's relief.
Soon Brimscombe were punished for Caldwell's wastefulness as Hobbs fumbled a neat near post Robertson flick following a low Bailey corner and Gambling bundled in the rebound.
Within two minutes though the visitors had another penalty after Drewitt reacted angrily to a challenge on him that went unnoticed from the referee and, compounding matters, was dismissed. This time Caldwell stroked home.
Unnerved, Bassett then quickly saw off any faint hopes Brimscombe had of staging a comeback as Robertson raced onto Callum Wright's long pass, deftly lifted the ball over Hobbs – who was injured in the process of trying the punch away - and rolled it into an empty net.
Emphatically, Bassett had made it eight games unbeaten in the league. Now they go for history – never have the team enjoyed a nine match run without defeat during their time in the Hellenic Premier.
Man of the Match: Jack Ellis – came on with around quarter of an hour gone for an injured Dale Richards and slotted in seamlessly at left back, a position he is not used to. Ellis tenaciously harried the dangerous Ollie Pitt and used possession effectively to help launch attacks.
Last modified on Monday 22nd June 2015 at 23:39
S Robertson (2), D Bailey, N Gambling