Steve Robertson (2)
Royal Wootton Bassett Town surrendered a 2-0 lead as they were dumped out of the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup by Division One East Sandhurst Town
A distinct lack of effort was the cause of Royal Wootton Bassett Town's exit in the second round of the Hellenic League Challenge Cup as they suffered an embarrassing loss at the hands of Sandhurst Town, who overturned an early 2-0 deficit to win 3-2.
Having gone two goals to the good within the opening quarter of an hour, Bassett took their foot off the gas so much that they appeared to spend the rest of the encounter idling in neutral while Sandhurst surged by them.
One-paced, lethargic, yet seemingly untroubled by what they were allowing to happen, the hosts provided the Division One East strugglers – who were thumped 5-1 at the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground in a Floodlit Cup encounter earlier in the month – with a gift of a victory.
Yet, from the balance of play in the game's early exchanges, Sandhurst were opponents who Bassett should have walked over.
Moments after Dale Richards had blazed over from close range just three minutes in, Steve Robertson provided Bassett with the lead, knocking into an open net after Matthew Watson had initially pulled off a double save to deny him and Dan Bailey.
He grabbed his second on twelve minutes, slotting into the bottom corner having timed his run to beat the offside trap and latch onto Bailey's defence splitting pass.
It all seemed so easy, as though a comfortable ninety minutes was going to be on the cards.
Perhaps it was that feeling which corrupted so many in blue and yellow on the field.
For the remainder of the game Bassett were pedestrian going forward, never injecting any pace into their attacks to exploit the visitors' evidently weak back line. Defensively, Rich Hunter's side lacked organisation, though it certainly did not help that the midfield showed little to no interest in providing any support.
Indeed, Sandhurst were gifted the goal which halved Bassett's lead. Dan Comer's attempt to defend a cross into the box by heading a ball below knee height back to Curtis Meare fell short of the 'keeper, and Maurice Black seized on the loose ball and tapped into the empty net.
Black then almost grabbed an equaliser a couple of minutes later, but poked wide after getting goalside of Nathan Hawkins.
By now Bassett had allowed themselves to be dragged down to the same level as their visitors. And it didn't help matters that Sam Packer spurned an easy chance to make it 3-1 when Watson's attempted clearance fell straight to the midfielder, who failed to find the target from twelve yards out with just the 'keeper to beat.
For the remainder of the half, Bassett found themselves pinned deep into their own half, limited to attempted counter attacks when it should have been them dominating proceedings.
That they still held the lead at the break was testament to Meare's sharp reflexes as he parried away Luke Turkington's stinging drive before pouncing on the rebound to prevent Billy Brice from netting the equaliser.
What should have served as notice to buck their ideas up after the change of ends failed to register at the interval as Bassett were even more lacklustre in the second period.
Sandhurst were the better of the sides after the restart, their front pairing of Black and Henry Lee an wide men Brice and Will Shaw demonstrating the workrate and teamwork that their opponents were lacking in all areas.
Their opposite numbers - twenty goal forward Robertson and playmakers Bailey and Packer - were non-factors.
The best Bassett could muster were two chances for Richards, who saw a sliding effort at the far post from an Ashton Gleed cross guided wide by Watson before his powerful free kick was helped over with the faintest of fingertips.
At the other end you could sense trouble brewing.
Defender Harry Oakley almost restored parity with twenty minutes remaining. Intercepting a Packer pass intended for Robertson, he stepped out of defence and advanced twenty yards unchallenged before shooting for the top corner from range, only to see Meare tip over.
Sandhurst did eventually get the breakthrough, and they did so in style. Shaw played a pass inside to Lee from the left, and the powerful forward produced an expert turn before curling a stunning strike into the bottom corner from 25 yards out.
They then snatched the winner with two minutes remaining. After breaking up an attempted Bassett attack on the halfway line, Joe Bilson released Brice in the right channel, and the winger skipped by Gleed before picking out the opposite corner with a precise finish to deservedly seal their hosts' fate.
In all it was a performance that demonstrated all the negative traits that came to fore during the hideous eleven game winless run at the back end of last season.
After such an embarrassment at the hands of lower level opponents, the team need to make sure that this was a one-off and that they avoid becoming infected with whatever struck them down at their lowest ebb in 2015-16.
The talent is there to do well. But this was a maddening example of how the necessary application can at times be lacking.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 26th November 2016 at 22:21
Steve Robertson (2)