Dale Richards, Steve Robertson
Goals from Dale Richards and Steve Robertson, as well as a determined defensive display in difficult conditions delivered Royal Wootton Bassett Town a hard fought 2-0 victory away against Highmoor Ibis.
It may not have been Royal Wootton Bassett Town's best win of the season, but it was certainly one of the most satisfying given the circumstances.
On a boggy, difficult pitch where patches of grass were few and far between, Bassett summoned every last reserve of energy they had to record a fine 2-0 away victory against Highmoor Ibis.
The Reading-based side may be stuck in the lower reaches of the Hellenic League Premier Division. Nevertheless, after being involved in a 6-6 draw against Highworth Town, they were always going to represent a stern test.
However, led by an obdurate defensive performance, Rich Hunter's side shut their hosts out and Dale Richards and Steve Robertson provided the goals they needed to record another impressive road win.
More than anything, the state of the pitch favoured both side's attacks. And that made for an entertaining, end-to-end opening period.
'Home 'keeper Omari Holmes and Bassett shotstopper Curtis Meare were both involved early in proceedings, doing well to repel powerful drives.
Holmes was called into action after just seven minutes, denying Steve Robertson after Bassett's leadings marksman had chested down Dan Bailey's diagonall pass and took fire from fifteen yards.
At the other end, Harry Grant's probing run and clever reverse pass set Jamie Pearcey through, but his effort from a tight angle was batted away by the in-form Meare.
The Bassett 'keeper again did well on the quarter hour, jumping off his back foot to get a hand to Alfie Grant's header from Harry Grant's left wing delivery before claiming the ball at the second attempt.
Chances continued to present themselves, and after eightmeen minutes, Richards latched onto Lewis Thompson's well disguised through ball before cutting inside onto his favoured left foot and firing low from the edge of the area. Aiming for the near corner he had Holmes beaten, but was to be denied by the post.
He would soon find the net though, starting and finishing a well worked move. Receiving possession just inside the Highmoor half, Richards switched play to Thompson on the left, who drew the right back before slipping in Robertson in the left corner. After getting to the byline, Robertson teased in a cross to the far post, where, after a brief scramble, Richards was able to bundle the ball over the line.
While Dan Bailey went close to doubling Bassett's lead shortly after the opener, Highmoor began to gain a firmer footing in the game as they pursued an equaliser.
Lamin Sankoh, playing in a free role between the frontline and midfield, was proving to be particularly difficult for the visitors to deal with.
He was involved in a counter attack, which culminated in Harry Grant cutting in from the right wing and aiming a curling effort towards the opposite corner. Meare, however, was not to be beaten as, outstretched, he got a firm palm to the ball to glove it away.
Sankoh wouldn't go away though. After getting in behind the Bassett back four, he squared for unmarked teammate Liam Gavin, who appeared odds on to score. But, making himself big, Meare parried at the midfielder's feet before Matt Cheetham was on hand to block the follow-up effort on the line.
Having survived those scares, Bassett then nearly stretched their advantage on the stroke of half time. The chance again fell to Richards as he latched onto Robertson's chipped pass over the top. Letting rip from the edge of the area, he again left Holmes no chance, but this time saw his strike clip the top of the crossbar.
With their slender lead to defend, Bassett had to dig deep following the restart. Indeed, for long periods they were camped inside their own half as Highmoor sought to up the pressure.
Yet, for all their territorial dominance, the hosts were unable to create any opportunities of note in the second period. That was a testament to the quality of the visitors' defensive display. While Meare had been the hero in the first half, the back four of Adam Corcoran, Steve Yeardley, Liam Edmondson and Dan Comer and a hard working midfield in front of them were responsible for keeping their goalie's out of action after the restart.
And Bassett's defensive performance, as well as Highmoor's commitment to throwing men forward, helped the counter attack become a dangerous weapon for Hunter's team.
Come full time, Bassett should really have had more than two goals too.
Before the hour, Richards was guilty of spurning a one-on-one with Holmes, scuffing wide of the right post, after a Sam Packer pass had set him on his way
With ten minutes to go, Robertson thrashed wide from just outside the area from Richards' square ball before the forward returned the favour only to see Richards place wide of the left post when Holmes was again left isolated.
Eventually the vital second goal arrived allowing the visitors to breathe easier. Upon a Highmoor attack being brought to an end on the edge of the area, the ball was quickly worked up to Richards on the halfway line, and his delicate touch set Robertson free. He then advanced on goal, rounded Holmes and tapped into the empty net.
Robertson could have added a third in stoppage time, toe poking over from a great position fifteen yards out after outstanding work from substitute Ashton Gleed down the left side. His strike had done enough to guarantee the outcome, however.
In the past this Bassett team could be criticised for failing to adapt their style to the conditions and for lacking the fortitude and resolve necessary to see a game out.
They hit all the right notes on this occasion though, and were deservedly rewarded with all three points.
Man of the Match: Dan Comer – playing on a pitch which was a full back's nightmare, Comer was outstanding. While the entire defence, as well as 'keeper Curtis Meare put in top performances, the Bassett left back was the pick of the bunch. He offered Highmoor no success down the side of the field he was defending and also helped launch a number of attacks with sensible balls clipped into the channels.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 14th January 2017 at 20:53
Dale Richards, Steve Robertson