Royal Wootton Bassett Town opened the New Gerard Buxton Sports Ground with a 1-1 draw against Brackley Town Saints as Steve Olphert's second half penalty earned a share of the spoils.
It was a game that will be remembered more for the occasion than the actual contest – a 1-1 draw between two evenly-matched teams, both of whom lacked a real cutting edge on the day. However, Royal Wootton Bassett Town's meeting with Brackley Town Saints was one of great importance in this club's history.
The town Sports Association's relocation, and thus that of the football club, has been a long, long time in the making. Over a decade has passed since plans were first laid to deliver a facility befitting the 21st century.
And although the first pieces of earth were shifted on the 22 acre site 15 months ago, it was never going to feel real, nor was that sense of being home going to be aroused after two years' exile in Cirencester, until the first ball had finally been kicked in anger.
At just after 3pm on this day – Saturday August 8th 2015 – those dreams, those plans, those feelings were at long last realised.
Moments later, Bassett were inches away from marking their homecoming in perfect style only to be denied by the woodwork when Callum Wright, having stole a march on his marker, steered Dan Comer's dangerous right wing free kick onto the bar.
Soon they found themselves in arrears as Brackley's Henry Jackson earned himself the distinction of being the first player to score at the ground in the game's tenth minute. Seizing on a Kalum Youngsam pass that lacked weight, the visitors quickly switched the direction of play and, outpacing Wright and centre half partner Nathan Hawkins, Jackson raced onto the ball played over the top, poked beyond onrushing 'keeper Curtis Meare and slotted home from a tight angle.
Certainly this wasn't how things had been scripted and Bassett's response was a relatively disjointed one.
A theme of the day was the slow, sandy pitch, which resulted in possession being turned over a number of times. Such an occurrence presented Tyler Sheppard a half chance midway through the period as he intercepted an underhit pass thirty yards from goal and sent a speculative shot wide of the mark.
Sam Packer and Dan Bailey then both brought Daniel Farrell into action, but neither was able to stretch the visiting stopper as he comfortably dealt with a pair of low strikes after driving runs from the creative midfielders.
A frustrating first half then ended with Bassett again coming close following a probing Comer delivery. The right back whipped in another good cross two minutes before the break, which Bailey, at the far post, nodded down for Steve Olphert. The summer signing from Shrivenham shuffled the ball onto Sheppard, who snatched at a shot on the turn, skewing wide from ten yards.
That inability to strike back nearly came back to haunt the hosts shortly after the restart when Ellis Minott unleashed a towering left footed strike from 25 yards which threatened to double the Saints' lead. However, to Bassett's relief, his shot sailed just over.
Within minutes the scores were then level. Youngsam and Comer linked up well down the right before the ball was worked inside for Packer, who, with his back to goal, sought to turn his man only to be felled in the box. From the spot, Olphert confidently picked out the bottom left corner with Farrell, guessing correctly, unable to keep it out.
Back on level terms, Bassett began to seize the initiative, Sheppard coming closest when he snatched at another chance with a shot on the turn from the edge of the area on the hour.
That spell in the ascendancy did not last though. And, on a baking August afternoon, weary legs served to create an open ending to the contest.
Jackson almost had a second for the Saints when he shimmied past Wright and Dale Richards before delivering a cross from the right which floated over Meare and crashed off the left post.
His teammate Matthew Johnson then twisted his way into the box before firing a low, angled strike that Meare swatted away.
While both good chances for Brackley, it was Bassett who almost stole the points in the dying seconds. A rushed clearance from Farrell fell straight to Ryan Thomas, who threaded a through ball to Packer. One-on-one, the midfielder, rather than shoot, opted to attempt to round the 'keeper, but a heavy touch put paid to any hopes of delivering a dramatic late winner.
Victory would have delivered the perfect end to a historic afternoon. However, a positive result to kick off the club's new era was something to be content with. And it won't dampen that great feeling of finally being home.
Man of the Match: Dan Comer – a quality display from the young full back on his debut. From advanced positions he delivered a handful of deliveries that caused problems for the Brackley defence, while he performed his defensive duties astutely and without error.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Sunday 9th August 2015 at 18:34