Royal Wootton Bassett Town were on course for a hard earned point against title chasers Thatcham Town until the Kingfishers snatched a 93rd minute winner from a set piece.
Having held out their opponents for ninety minutes plus the additional two already played in stoppage time, Royal Wootton Bassett Town seemed on course to hold Thatcham Town to a goalless draw and all but end their remaining hopes of lifting the Hellenic League Premier Division title.
However, a failure from Bassett to successfully mark from a free kick gifted Thatcham joint-manager Gareth Thomas a 93rd minute winner, which kept the Kingfishers' chances of finishing top of the pile come the end of the campaign alive.
According to Bassett boss Paul Braithwaite, it was the thirtieth time this season that they have shipped a goal from a set piece, and the twenty-third time they have conceded a headed goal.
It's certainly clear to see where much of Bassett's work over the summer ahead of next season will be focused. Those numbers simply aren't good enough, particularly if the team wants to kick on and become a side capable of finishing in the top half and higher.
The most frustrating part of conceding in such a manner at that point of the game is that it overshadows the battling, mature performance that pushed them to within seconds of again frustrating Thatcham. Back in November, Bassett defeated the then-league leaders 2-1. A point here would have meant taking four from six against the team with arguably the greatest strength in depth in the division.
For all the firepower Thatcham could call upon – so much that Josh Baines and Jon Bennett, who have a combined 40 goals between them this season, had to stew for most of the game on the bench – they were unable to break Bassett's resistance.
At least until centre half Thomas was allowed to shed his man and head in unmarked at the far post from Tom Browne's free kick.
The exaggerated Thatcham celebrations that followed – understandable given the title race they find themselves in – were undoubtedly laced with a great sense of relief at having snatched this victory.
Though not worthy of taking the points, Bassett merited a point from this game. It wasn't the case that Bassett merely set back, absorbing attack after attack from their powerful visitors. Instead, they took the game to Thatcham, giving them a few things to think about along the way.
Fewer than four minutes in, a finely timed run into the left channel and clever backheel from Steve Robertson presented Harvey Scholes, in a great position inside the visitors' area, with time to shoot, but the wide man got his angles wrong and skewed his attempt to pick out the opposite corner wide.
Thatcham then twice found the woodwork. Shortly after Scholes' opportunity, Daniel Lachacz headed Josh Helmore's weighted delivery onto the bar from close range. Then, nine minutes before the break, a Mark James header from Tom Melledew's hanging corner was awkwardly tipped by Curtis Meare onto the frame of the goal, the danger eventually being cleared.
Still, it was Bassett who had the final chance of the half. By this point, Thatcham were lucky to have their full contingent of players on the pitch as Shane Cooper-Clarke only saw yellow for a wild two-footed lunge on Steve Olphert, while James escaped unpunished for taking a swipe at Scholes off the ball.
Had either been dismissed, and had Nathan Hawkins' flicked header from a whipped in Dan Comer free kick settled in the net as opposed to going across the face of goal and narrowly wide, then the hosts would have been in the driving seat.
As it was, Thatcham began exerting more pressure after the restart. Racing onto a long ball over the top, Cooper-Clarke had a free shot on goal early on but saw his low drive from the right edge of the box palmed away.
The visitors then had the ball in the net through James, but he was penalised for a push in the back, while Cooper-Clarke saw a shot from the edge of the area deflected narrowly wide following a Helmore cutback.
Bassett continued to have their moments too, however, and a stinging drive from Sam Packer forced Chris Rackley into action, the Thatcham stopper diving low to tip the midfielder's shot, which was headed for the bottom corner, around the post
The deeper into the game it got, the more desperate Thatcham became. Yet they continued to be thwarted.
Meare, especially, was proving to be a thorn in their side. When one ball beat the Bassett defence again, the 'keeper raced off his line to parry wide at the feet of Cooper-Clarke before Thomas glanced a header straight into his gloves from ten yards out.
Then, with nine minutes to go, Cooper-Clarke met Helmore's low cross with a close range side foot effort which Meare kept out with a firm fist before instinctively diving on the loose ball ahead of Bennett, who was waiting to pounce.
Deep in injury time he was powerless to keep out Thomas' header though. The point he and his team deserved had disappeared in simple fashion yet again.
Man of the Match: Curtis Meare – made a handful of quality saves that helped frustrate the visitors and twice came to Bassett's aid after the defence had been breached.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 2nd April 2016 at 21:48