Royal Wootton Bassett slipped to another home league defeat as ten man Ardley United triumphed 2-1.
Royal Wootton Bassett Town were unable to take advantage of playing with an extra man for the final half hour of their clash against Ardley United as the Oxfordshire visitors eked out a 2-1 victory.
Trailing by a goal, Rich Hunter's side were handed a huge boost early in the second period when Ardley centre half Joel Meade was dismissed for needlessly kicking out at Sam Packer after being fouled by the Bassett playmaker.
However, within eight minutes of being reduced to ten men Ardley were able to double the lead and, although Steve Yeardley pulled one back from the penalty spot, the hosts could not get back on level terms as they fell to their eighth home league defeat of the campaign.
That poor home record could ultimately end up being the difference between a top and bottom half finish and, again, a blunt attack meant too much was asked of Bassett's defence leading to a familiar frustrating conclusion.
Ardley, riding high in sixth, were always going to be tough opponents. And they demonstrated their intent from the kick off as 'keeper Curtis Meare was the first Bassett player to touch the ball, doing brilliantly to repel Jack Ross' close range effort from Matt Cruse's cross after just forty seconds. Despite that great save, the danger wasn't averted, and it took a goalline block from Adam Corcoran to keep out Nathaniel Lewars' follow up.
Lewars then steered narrowly wide from Declan Benjamin's delicate through ball as they continued to have the better of the opening exchanges.
There were chances for Bassett too though. Yet they lacked the same clinical edge posed by Ardley.
After eighteen minutes, Lewis Thompson got in behind the visiting defence but stabbed wide from a tight angle. Then, just before the half hour mark, a well worked move from left to right eventually saw Corcoran square inside to Matt Cheetham, whose dipping shot from the edge of the area forced an awkward tip over the bar from Nick Bennion.
The breakthrough eventually came for Ardley in avoidable fashion. Corcoran's attempted pass back to Liam Edmondson was picked off and the best the centre half could do was foul on the edge of the box. Benjamin curled a terrific free kick over the wall which struck the left upright and the rebound fell for Ross who swept home.
It should really have been worse for Bassett heading into the break as Ross somehow failed to guide Benjamin's low cross into an empty net from six yards out as he skewed his effort across the face of goal.
That was a let off for Bassett's defence. But the failure to create at the other end meant they were under added pressure.
Too often, a move going forward came to nothing as either the wrong pass was chosen or a failure to look across the line resulted in offside.
And when they did manage to get through, a lack of composure in front of goal let them down, as was the case on the hour when Packer's clipped through ball set Dale Richards free. Although the left winger had a trailing Chris Jackson breathing down his neck, he should have done better when he sought to slot past Bennion. Instead, a weak attempt was hacked away for a corner.
The dismissal of Meade did offer the possibility of changing the balance of play in Bassett's favour. And within three minutes of that occurring, a Lewis Thompson free kick from the right corner fell for Steve Olphert on the edge of the six yard box but the ball stuck in the midfielder's feet and before he could get a shot off a tackle was made.
Ardley quickly punished Bassett further. The ball was played into the feet of target man Troy Bryan on the edge of the area, and he slipped in Cruse, who coolly picked out the bottom left corner.
The reaction from Bassett to going two down was prompt. Packer split the Ardley defence with a sublime pass, which Thompson raced onto before being hauled down in the box by Bradley Cox, who was lucky to escape with just a yellow card. From the spot, Yeardley sent Bennion the wrong way.
However, with just fifteen minutes remaining, pulling back to level terms was going to be a difficult task.
They had Meare to thank for ensuring the deficit remained a single goal as he pulled off a fabulous one-handed save to deny a Bryan effort headed for the top corner.
Then, in the closing stages, Thompson did twice come close to restoring parity. With five minutes remaining he arrowed wide from the edge of the area. Moments later he swung in a low free kick from the right corner, which appeared to cross the line before Bennion got his hands on the ball to swat it away. Bassett appealed in vain to the officials, though they would have been best served thrashing the loose ball into the net as it squirmed across goal following Bennion's save.
It was not to be, and another fine Meare save spared them falling to a 3-1 defeat as the 'keeper tipped a powerful Benjamin drive over.
Man of the Match: Curtis Meare – there was little he could do to keep out either of Ardley's goals, but a trio of excellent saves helped keep Bassett in the game.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Sunday 12th February 2017 at 10:53