Royal Wootton Bassett Town shipped six second half goals as they were routed 7-1 away against Ardley United.
If Royal Wootton Bassett Town's run of desperate form continues, there's only one direction in which they'll be heading. And that's down.
Their miserable league run – halted only briefly by a last ditch rescue act against Brimscombe and Thrupp – continued apace as, for the second time in the space of a month, Bassett were embarrassed. Memories still fresh of their 8-0 mauling at the hands of local rivals Highworth Town, Paul Braithwaite's team plumbed new depths of humiliation as they were crushed 7-1 at the hands of Ardley United, conceding six in the second half.
Though on a run which had seen them win four straight and lose just one of their last nine, the Oxfordshire side still began the day a couple of places below their visitors in the Hellenic League Premier Division table. Yet on this day they were streets ahead.
While they led by just a single goal at half time, coming courtesy of Reece Bayliss' well taken free kick after quarter of an hour, the advantage they held could well have been much greater.
Ryan Markham was controlling play in midfield, while wingers Bayliss and Jacob Daffern were afforded far too much space thanks to the 3-5-2 which Bassett had opted for.
But for finishing that lacked composure, there could have been five goals in the game's blistering opening stages, with four fine opportunities falling to the hosts.
Daffern struck narrowly wide after cutting in and leaving behind Dale Richards, before an unmarked Chris Jackson somehow headed Bayliss' free kick over from six yards, while Carl Tappin skewed over after a give-and-go with Daffern on the edge of the box had opened up the Bassett defence.
Bassett too had their chances early on, Steve Robertson curling an attempted lob narrowly wide after just 30 seconds. A fine Kieran Beesley save then kept out the frontman's header following Steve Olphert's cross, with Robertson seeing his follow-up effort blocked.
A goal appeared an inevitability, and Bayliss soon provided it. A brief lull in play followed. Yet Ardley still had their chances, troubling Bassett primarily on the break and from set pieces.
From a Bayliss corner, Lewis Strafford flicked a header narrowly wide, while a surging run from Bayliss saw him ghost beyond Adam Corcoran and round Curtis Meare only to see his cutback for dangerous forward Troy Bryan blocked.
It was a counter attack that delivered their second midway through the second period. Dale Richards' left wing cross failed to beat the front man and moments later at the other end Nathan Hawkins had been outmuscled by Lewis Hayden, who squared to substitute Elias Katsoloudi to tap in.
That ushered in Bassett's collapse.
Four minutes later an unmarked Ade Talabi – another substitute – headed in from a corner to make Ardley's lead appear unassailable.
A small glimmer of hope for the visitors was provided by Robertson, who expertly controlled a Jamie Richards cross before steering a shot into the opposite corner from twelve yards.
However, a calamitous fourth spelled doom for Bassett as Daffern's corner flew straight in.
The white flag was quickly raised and the lack of effort shown in the final five minutes was galling.
Another corner was not cleared and Talabi hooked in. Talabi then robbed Hawkins before squaring to Katsoloudi on the right and he coolly picked out the bottom left corner. The final act came when Talabi completed his hat trick – and made it five goals between him and fellow substitute Katasoloudi – with a header at the right post.
Only the final whistle spared the visitors further embarrassment.
Earlier this season Bassett were tearing apart Ascot United and defeating table toppers Thatcham Town on their own turf. Now they appear to be a shadow of their former selves, shorn of ideas and imploding at the merest sign of difficulty in games.
The eleventh place position in which they still sit may imply a degree of comfort. But with no sign that they are about to turn a corner, there's no doubt that the team are now staring a relegation dogfight firmly in the face.
To overcome that is going to require a number of team members to ask serious questions of whether they themselves are willing to tough it out.
At the moment there are too many passengers in the side, with too few appearing concerned about the rut into which their team have slipped.
Now's the time for soul searching and, most urgently, a reaction before things go from bad to worse.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 16th January 2016 at 20:14