Dan Bailey, Steve Olphert
Royal Wootton Bassett Town picked up three points and a clean sheet on their return to league action as they defeated Abingdon United 2-0.
If one criticism could be made of Royal Wootton Bassett Town under Paul Braithwaite's stewardship it would be the lack of clean sheets that the team have been able to keep.
Only twice in 38 league games last season did Bassett not concede, while, going into their return league encounter with Abingdon United, they had pitched just one shutout so far this campaign.
They now have double that number - and another three points to boot following a 2-0 victory, despite missing Adam Corcoran, George Drewitt, Nathan Hawkins and Dale Richards from their back line.
The selection dilemma posed by that quartet's absence – three were missing through suspension – meant shifting to a back three consisting of regular full back Dan Comer, Steve Yeardley, who has made most of his appearance this season in midfield, and central midfielder Matt Cheetham.
And they didn't put a foot wrong all afternoon, nullifying any threat posed by the visitors, who, although struggling in the league, looked much sharper and well drilled than in the teams' meeting a month ago and enjoyed long periods of possession.
Cheetham especially was imperious. A player who was frequently an unused substitute at the beginning of the season, he continued the trend of making the most of the opportunities afforded to him with a quality performance in an unfamiliar position.
The defensive trio made sure it was a quiet afternoon for 'keeper Luke Kuczynski, who was only brought into action once – in the contest's 64th minute – when he had to tip over John Dennis' powerfully struck long range drive.
Their efficiency and organisation meant that a pair of bookend goals, the first ten minutes in, the second ten minutes from time, were all that Bassett needed to secure victory on their return to league action.
They went ahead with the first opportunity of the game. A well worked attack was kept alive by Joe Hiscock and, after receiving a neat set back from impressive debutant Martin Sinclair in the left corner, Harvey Scholes delivered a towering cross which Dan Bailey was on hand to bravely head in at the far post.
The rest of the opening period was something of a slow burner as a midfield battle emerged. But at no point did the hosts look likely to concede. At the other end, meanwhile, Steve Robertson twice failed to find the target from difficult angles after being slipped through by Sam Packer.
Shortly before the break Scholes was presented with a good opening too as a defensive header failed to sufficiently clear the danger posed by a speculative ball into the box from Packer. However the Bassett wide man, after cutting in onto his favoured right foot failed to test 'keeper Jack Griffiths with a curling shot.
The woodwork was next to deny the hosts. Three minutes after the restart Steve Olphert intercepted an attempted clearance before Yeardley threaded a pass to Robertson, who saw his weighted shot cannon off the bar.
Proceedings had begun to open up and, after Kuczinsky's lone save, Sinclair snatched at a header from ten yards as he connected with Hiscock's floated cross.
Midway through the second period, Bassett's job was made somewhat easier when Tom Booker picked up two yellow cards within a matter of seconds. His first came for his reaction to a foul from Robertson, who was treading a fine line himself after being cautioned in the opening period. The reason for Booker's second yellow wasn't immediately apparent, though it was likely for dissent aimed at the referee.
That numerical advantage led to a flurry of chances for the home side. Bailey saw a close range strike deflected wide following a twisting run inside from the right before Scholes was denied at point blank range by Griffiths as he this time got on the end of a Hiscock delivery.
The points were finally made fully secure by Olphert, who swept home from the penalty spot for the fifth time this campaign following a trip on Robertson by Abingdon captain Jamie Essex.
It could then have been three late on as a Scholes daisy-cutter had an outstretched Griffiths beaten, but his effort only found the left upright.
Another goal would only have added a slight extra touch of glass on the performance. Instead, it was the clean sheet that stood out most in a good afternoon's work.
Man of the Match: Matt Cheetham – although not in his most comfortable position, he made it look as though he was a natural centre half. Dominant in the air and in the tackle, Cheetham also sought to play the ball out from the back in another impressive display.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Sunday 18th October 2015 at 10:08
Dan Bailey, Steve Olphert