Robins late show sees off valiant Bassett

Saturday 12 August 2017 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 12 August 2017 at 20:34)

Despite giving their much fancied opponents a run for their money, two late goals saw Royal Wootton Bassett Town fall to a 3-1 defeat against title favourites Bracknell Town.

Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, 12th August 2017

Having recorded two crushing 6-0 victories against Royal Wootton Bassett Town last season, Bracknell Town were perhaps shocked to be given such a test by Bassett in their opening encounter this year.

For the best part of 70 minute Rich Hunter's team were the Robins' equals, and were perhaps unfortunate not to have been in front, having had the better of the game's chances.

Yet, a late two goal salvo from Joe Gater and Liam Ferdinand ended any hopes Bassett had of claiming a second successive point to begin the season, with their goals clinching a slightly flattering 3-1 triumph for the visitors.

Prior to kick off, Bassett – whose side was much changed from last week's FA Cup loss – would have been forgiven for not expecting to take anything from the contest given Bracknell's status as one of the favourites for this year's Hellenic League Premier Division title.

But after frustrating their guests with a mature, disciplined display in the opening period, Bassett's chances of salvaging something – be it a draw, or even victory – looked rather decent. Confidence then picked up significantly after Ben Lodge headed home from Sam Packer's delightful cross midway through the second half.

Bracknell were handed an equaliser within two minutes though, punishing Bassett for being too cute when deep inside their opponents' territory, and they built on that to eventually grab the goals that took them to their win.

As with last week's defeat, there was therefore a sense of frustration in the Bassett camp come full time. However, rather than lamenting a sub-standard performance, they were left to rue coming away empty-handed after one of their better displays.

From the off, Bassett played a clever game. Understanding the offensive threat Bracknell posed, Hunter opted for a 4-5-1 formation with the powerful David Coleman the lone man up front. Allowing Bracknell to play as much as they wanted along their backline, the hosts sat deep and preserved their shape, a tactic which cut off the visitors' midfield.

That left them to play hopeful long balls forward, which found little traction against an assured Bassett backline marshalled by Matt Cheetham and Jonny Aitkenhead, who was playing through a knee injury.

Bowerman, one of the division's leading talents, did have a sight on goal early on, but he struck a curling effort straight into the hands of debutant 'keeper Matt Bulman.

The former Swindon Town and Forest Green shotstopper was rarely troubled for the rest of the period. Instead, his opposite number Chris Grace was forced to be more alert in the opening period.

Bassett should have had the lead on nine minutes when Ben Lodge's jinking run inside from the right opened up the Bracknell defence. They failed to clear their lines when Lodge's progress was halted on the edge of the box, with the ball breaking for Coleman. After holding the ball up well, he set it back to Sam Packer, who saw a powerful shot from just inside the area headed over.

On the half hour mark, Grace was forced to awkwardly tip over Coleman's rising 25-yard free kick. He was lucky to find himself in the right place at the right time minutes before the break when Gio Wrona's corner was headed back across the six-yard box by one of his own defenders. Dale Richards was in place to pounce for Bassett and, a matter of yards out, he was expecting to score, yet he could only guide his snap header into the thankful arms of the 'keeper.

Bassett's guard slipped slightly upon the resumption of play as Adam Cornell found himself free at the near post, but could only drag his shot from Carl Withers' corner wide.

Ferdinand was then able to get to the byline and flash a low cross across the face of goal, which was just out of Cornell's reach. The danger wasn't averted, and from the resulting corner George Short saw a header blocked on the line before Bulman's reactions were tested after a deflection off Cheetham almost took the ball in.

On the hour, Ferdinand was able to drive forward and a one-two with Bowerman set him free, but Bulman was quick off his line to smother at the ex-Binfield frontman's feet.

The hosts re-grouped though and took the lead from the game's next chance of note. It was a well worked opener too. Coleman brilliantly held up play and clipped a pass into the left corner for Mason Thompson, who set to Packer in support. Bassett's playmaker steered a fine cross to the far post, where Lodge was on hand to head beyond Grace.

Within minutes, they had a fantastic opportunity to double their lead as Packer was played in down the right with Lodge making an overlapping run. However, rather than bear down on goal and take advantage of a two-on-two situation, Bassett sought to work the ball back into midfield. Kai Robinson's attempted pass to left back Richards was seized upon by Cornell, who played a quick pass in behind the Bassett defence, which Bowerman raced onto and guided over the onrushing Bulman.

Bulman then denied Ferdinand, batting away a strike from 15 yards before Bassett saw a chance to retake the lead go begging.

Lodge brushed aside the attention of left back John Gray and cut the ball back to Packer, whose sweeping shot crashed off the right post.

Soon Bracknell punished Bassett for passing up a third gilt-edged opportunity.

With seven minutes remaining, Dan Roberts' corner picked out an unmarked Gater, and the centre half sent a controlled side-foot volley into the roof of the net.

The points were then quickly sealed when Ferdinand's clever run across the defence allowed him to latch onto Bowerman's threaded pass and slot into the bottom corner.

Football can be a cruel game at times, and, on this occasion, it was Bracknell discovering their ruthlessness late on that sealed Bassett's undeserved fate.

Man of the Match: Matt Bulman – the signing of the former Swindon man is a major coup for Bassett. And he demonstrated his class on debut, pulling off a trio of outstanding second half saves, while being superb with his distribution throughout.

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