It was a festive derby to forget for Royal Wootton Bassett Town as Highworth Town inflicted a humiliating 8-0 defeat in their meeting at The Elms.
Royal Wootton Bassett Town's latest visit to Highworth Town was a derby encounter like none that had come before. And, following an embarrassing 8-0 undressing at the hands of their local rivals, it's a meeting they will want to forget as quickly as possible.
Highworth may well be Hellenic League Premier Division title contenders. But Bassett – at near enough full strength, save for the absence of George Drewitt and Dale Richards – made life far too easy for their near neighbours, crumbling apart and showing no fight having fallen into a 2-0 deficit after just ten minutes.
As shellshocked as those goals from Dan Drewett and Richie Saunders left Bassett, the early hole into which they fell was less the result of poor play from the visitors than it was tactical error.
The decision by Paul Braithwaite to start with a 4-3-3 formation, using Dan Bailey and Sam Packer in advanced attacking roles to support Steve Robertson, may have been intended to cause as much damage as possible to Highworth on the counter attack.
However, the narrowness with which his side played allowed home full backs Tony Joyce and Tom Butler the freedom to play high up the pitch and outnumber Bassett down the wings when in possession. That allowed the hosts to frequently cross the ball into the box or work it inside into dangerous areas from where goals – many of them – were ultimately scored.
Left back Butler, in particular, proved to be a constant source of trouble. It was a cross delivered by Aaron Maximen from his side of the pitch, which led to Highworth putting the ball into the back of the net for the first time. However, TJ Bohane's strike was ruled out as he was penalised for a high foot on Nathan Hawkins.
It didn't take long for them to grab a legitimate goal though, Drewett bundling in at the right post after Curtis Meare could only bat away a curling Butler effort which had been helped on by a deflection off Callum Parsons.
Two minutes later and Highworth's lead was doubled. Again Bassett allowed Highworth to move freely down the left before a square pass inside provided Saunders the opportunity to thump a vicious 20-yard drive beyond a despairing Meare.
Braithwaite soon ordered a switch to a more conventional four-man midfield in an attempt to stem the flow of Highworth attacks being launched down the wings.
For a short period of time it helped, even allowing his team to come close when a glancing Robertson header from a Dan Comer cross was turned around the post by a sprawling Kurtis Sharkey.
However, the band aid provided by that tactical shift proved temporary, the mental damage already inflicted proving overwhelming.
Thereafter the Bassett goal lay under siege. A powerful Maximen shot forced an awkward parry from Meare before Drewett clipped narrowly over from a Parsons cut back and Bohane forced Meare into action again from a tight angle.
A third seemed imminent and duly arrived. Butler was involved once more, feeding Bohane who had made a run into the left channel. He then crossed for the all-action midfielder Saunders, who planted a towering header into the top corner.
With half time looming Highworth then grabbed another, the simplest of moves culminating in Bohane setting back to Parsons to hammer a low drive from the edge of the area into the bottom right corner.
The break provided only the briefest respite for Bassett.
Within two minutes of the restart the bloodletting continued as Steve Yeardley headed a Parsons corner, which had been allowed to sail across the six-yard box without a challenge, into his own net.
Saunders reminded his former club of his goalscoring abilities with another headed goal – unmarked – from a Butler free kick to complete his hat trick and make it 6-0.
Highworth's sprightly young attacking trio of Parsons, Drewett and Nathan Blackford then combined to serve up a pair of quality goals to complete their side's heaven of an afternoon and Bassett's hell.
Fifteen minutes from time, Parsons initiated an incisive break that opened up the visiting defence and ended with substitute Blackford picking out the bottom corner from twenty yards.
Blackford's second came in the closing stages, as he connected with a Drewett delivery from the right and sent a powerful header from the edge of the area in off the post.
8-0 – a disastrous afternoon.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Tuesday 29th December 2015 at 11:26