Flackwell Health inflicted a thumping 5-1 defeat on Royal Wootton Bassett Town as Rich Hunter's side were found wanting in their first of three consecutive games against the Hellenic League Premier Division's top three teams.
Royal Wootton Bassett Town's end of season road trip got off to the roughest of starts as they were thrashed 5-1 by Flackwell Heath in the first of three consecutive games against the Hellenic League Premier Division's top three sides.
The Heathens – inspired by a hat-trick from midfielder Ben Sturgess and brace for the always dangerous Dan Rapley - ran roughshod over Rich Hunter's team.
They went ahead after just two minutes before extending that advantage to three by the break. Rapley then made it four moments after the restart, and it was five before Bassett were able to salvage a hardly deserved consolation through Steve Robertson.
The visitors' performance was a pale shadow of that from the earlier meeting between the teams this season, which resulted in a narrow 1-0 victory for Flackwell courtesy of a scrappy first half winner.
Error strewn with little in the way of attacking nous, it was all too easy for the home side who took a big step towards guaranteeing themselves third place come season's end.
It didn't help Bassett that they fell behind so early in the game. Receiving a pass in the left channel, Rapley needed just one deft touch to deliver a defence splitting pass through the middle, which Sturgess latched onto and coolly lifted over Curtis Meare.
Rapley was again creator for the second, drawing a clumsy foul from Adam Corcoran inside the box after he had cut inside and toyed with the full back. Sturgess confidently stepped up to the spot, sending the Bassett 'keeper the wrong way.
The woodwork then denied Flackwell a third as Tom Willment saw his powerful header from Joel Jacobs' corner come crashing back off the bar.
Having survived that let off, Bassett were offered a way back into the game a minute later when Nathan Hawkins was hauled back when attempting to meet Dale Richards' corner. Richards rather than top scorer Robertson was the player tasked with taking the penalty. But he failed to add to his ten goals for the season as Tom Mason parried his effort, which was at a comfortable height for the home custodian.
To make matters worse, Rapley ended the game as a contest on the half hour mark, flicking in a near post header from Jacobs after the full back had been given a second opportunity to cross as his initial corner had only been half-cleared.
Rapley again found the target less than three minutes after the restart. Claiming offside following a long ball into the left corner, the Bassett defence ground to a halt. But no flag was forthcoming from the assistant referee, and the potent wide man kept going before producing a fine finish into the opposite top corner from the edge of the box.
On the hour, Willment saw another header from a set piece blocked on the line, while Sturgess passed up an initial chance at a hat trick when he placed a shot from twenty yards straight at Meare.
There was no denying the hosts' skipper the match ball with ten minutes remaining though as he charged in to head Liam Tack's fizzing cross into the bottom corner.
Bassett then grabbed one back in the game's dying moments. Bailey recycled play by hooking a looping, awkward cross into the box, and Robertson beat Mason to the punch, guiding a header just over the line despite the acrobatic efforts of Willment to preserve a clean sheet.
That was not the end of the action though. And it took a fine double save from Meare to stop Flackwell from racking up a half dozen, with Matty Stockill's powerful drive being repelled before the 'keeper quickly got back to his feet and blocked Sturgess' rebound shot.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 4th March 2017 at 21:33