Late comeback ensures season ends on a high
Saturday 01 April 2017 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 01 April 2017 at 21:47)
A stunning late show from Royal Wootton Bassett Town saw them come from behind to win 3-2 against Oxford City Nomads as they signed off their Hellenic League Premier Division campaign with victory.
Court Place Farm, 1st April 2017
With ten minutes of their season remaining, Royal Wootton Bassett Town were on course to suffer a fifth straight league defeat – and a second successive loss against a side mired in the bottom four of the Hellenic League Premier Division.
But, realising that pride was something actually worth playing for, they pulled off a stunning comeback, scoring twice in the game's final five minutes to seal victory by the odd goal in five against Oxford City Nomads.
Steve Yeardley, who put Bassett ahead on the afternoon from the penalty spot, was the players who scored the winning goal in the club's 1,000th Hellenic League match, tapping in from Dale Richards' s square ball just moments after Dan Bailey had restored parity with a scrambled equaliser.
The result was certainly the reaction manager Rich Hunter after a frustrating fortnight which had seen his side thrashed without putting a fight at championship challenging Bracknell Town, defeated by then-basement dwellers Burnham before being unceremoniously dumped out of the Supplementary Cup by Ardley United.
Nevertheless, their performance against a spirited Nomads side was a microcosm of a ultimately frustrating season. The final stages spent chasing the game were Bassett at their best. Yet the disjointed, at times fractious display that came before gave those in attendance justifiable reason to fear the campaign would end with a whimper.
After taking time to settle and seeing Curtis Meare deny the lively Rav Shamsi in the game's sixth minute, Bassett did begin to gain the upper hand.
They came close just after the quarter hour mark when Ryan Withers drove to the byline and cut back for Dan Bailey ten yards out, but, with the ball played slightly behind the midfielder, he was unable to find the back of the net.
The visitors then took the lead midway through the period when Yeardley converted from the spot after Withers was hauled down by full back Connor Mattimore following a give-and-go with Steve Robertson that sliced open the home defence.
With the lead, Bassett started to look comfortable. However, a contentious handball decision against Matt Cheetham as he sought to block Daniel West's pile-driver and Billy Gillett's conversion of the resultant penalty seemed to tilt them over the edge.
Now their bad habits came to the fore. Their three-man centre midfield began to be overrun by the clever play of the diminutive Connor Harris and the force of will of Gillett.
And Shamsi was the beneficiary of their play, latching onto Gillett's through ball four minutes before the break and appearing destined to score. Through on goal, he attempted to lift the ball over the onrushing Meare only to see his effort swatted wide by another fantastic save from the Bassett stopper.
On the stroke of half time, Shamsi again found himself with just Meare to beat following a booming clearance from home stopper Jack Wells, but his powerful drive was again batted away.
Meare, who has performed at a high standard all season, continued to be left exposed in the second period.
When West fed Shamsi with twenty minutes to go, the forward again seemed odds on to score, but his attempted lob was straight at the 'keeper.
Although it was Nomads making the most of the play at this stage, Bassett did have chances such as when Yeardley connected with a Dan Comer free kick only to see his glancing header fall into the hands of Wells.
Soon the visitors would have been regretting not taking that chance as Nomads went in front. Matt Woodley's towering corner was met at the far post by Daniel Leggett, whose header looped over Meare and, despite an acrobatic attempt to clear it, sailed just over the line.
Defeat now seemed inevitable – and arguably it should have been when Shamsi, jumping on an underhit Nathan Hawkins pass, was again one-on-one with Meare but had the ball clawed away at his feet when trying to round the the Bassett custodian.
Having survived that let off, finally Bassett awoke from their slumber. Where they summoned their second wind from having appeared out of ideas for long parts of the second period, only the players know. But they can be satisfied that they did finish with a flourish.
Dale Richards, who played the majority of the game at left back, was sent forward to give the Nomads backline something else to think about. And he teed up Robertson with two minutes remaining, setting down a raking diagonal ball from Sam Packer but the frontman could only head wide.
Within a minute, Bassett were on level terms though. A defensive mix-up presented Robertson with a one-on-one opportunity. From a tight angle he steered a shot against the crossbar and Bailey was on hand to tuck away the rebound.
With renewed confidence, they quickly grabbed a winner. Liam Edmondson halted a Nomads attack in its tracks and played a weighted ball over the top of their defence, which Richards raced on to. Baring down on goal, he drew Wells off his line before squaring to Yeardley for the simplest of tap ins and most relieving of winners.
Man of the Match: Dale Richards – performed well at left back (where he has seldom played throughout the course of this season) before making the difference when moved to a more advanced role in the final stages.