Second half collapse spells defeat

Saturday 26 August 2017 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 27 August 2017 at 10:58)

Three goals in eight second half minutes condemned Royal Wootton Bassett Town a 3-0 home defeat against Thatcham Town.

Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, 26th August 2017

For the best part of an hour Royal Wootton Bassett Town had cannily held Thatcham Town – one of the four teams hotly tipped for the Hellenic League Premier Division title – in check. Yet a three-goal blitz inside a devastating eight minute period of second half play condemned Rich Hunter's side to a second league defeat of the season.

Having worked diligently and effectively to blunt the Kingfishers' attacking edge for the majority of the contest, Bassett all but fell apart of the seams at the game's crucial stage. The opener, swept in by Josh Helmore on 62 minutes after Shane Cooper-Clarke headed Curtis Angell's cross back across goal, knocked all confidence out of the hosts.

And Thatcham then feasted upon a wounded Bassett. The prolific Cooper-Clarke quickly doubled their advantage, firing in from the edge of the area, before Joe Blount rounded off an intricate one-two with Harry Grant to add insult to injury.

The tale was similar to that which played out in their meeting a fortnight ago with Bracknell Town, another of the division's favourites. Setting out in a 4-5-1, Bassett limited their opponents to a couple of half chances during an evenly balanced first half.

In fact, Bassett could argue that they had been the better of the two sides going into the break, with the battling, industrious performance of their middle five standing out in particular.

Bassett could even have been ahead in the opening five minutes. Callum Wright played a ball into the channel for Rory Sproule to run onto. The powerful frontman was played onside by a trailing Bab Jarra, and aimed a powerful drive towards the nearside corner, which Chris Rackley did well to divert around the post.

A tight, midfield battle played out for the remainder of the period with little action of note in front of goal.

Debutant 'keeper Dan Lawrence did have to be alert on two occasions for Bassett, but he had little trouble dealing with Helmore's untidy shot from Michael Miller's cross before he was more than equal to Jemel Johnson's effort from what was an exceptionally tight angle after the forward had been played in by Blount's through ball.

Two set pieces early in the second period brought opportunities for Thatcham, but they were still struggling to muster opportunities from open play.

The first chance saw midfielder Grant snatch at a shot from 15 yards, which Lawrence tipped away before Grant's free kick from deep was headed as far as Helmore on the edge of the area, who failed to locate the target with his volley.

Soon though, the game started to open up. With Sproule, having run himself into the ground, starting to flag, little was sticking up front, forcing Bassett deeper. And the resulting pressure soon told.

Johnson held up the ball well in the left corner, and played a pass to full back Angell, who delivered a towering cross to the far post. Cooper-Clarke, jumping off his back foot, did well to head back across goal, and Helmore was on hand to steer in from close range.

While that was a well worked goal, Thatcham benefited from Bassett's sloppy play for their second, which arrived just six minutes later. Henry Owen intercepted an underhit pass and immediately reversed the direction of play with a diagonal ball for Cooper-Clarke.

The robust frontman's first touch easily took him away from the isolated Matt Cheetham and created more than enough space for the forward to look up and fire a powerful drive into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Bassett then had little chance to draw breath before they found themselves three goals down. Quick passing created gaps in the home defence, and Blount played a give-and-go with Grant that set the winger free to calmly slot past Lawrence.

It was no surprise that Bassett would be frustrated having seen a promising position slide so rapidly into one where they were facing an emphatic defeat. And tempers boiled over in the game's closing stages when Grant wrestled Kai Robinson to the ground, provoking a response from the energetic centre midfielder, which brought both sets of players together for some pushing and shoving.

While both players could consider themselves fortunate to have remained on the pitch, it was arguably sensible on the referee's part to only dish out yellow cards to the pair.

A flurry of chances then arrived in the last couple of minutes. A raking shot from Wright forced an outstretched Rackley to steer wide of the post, before Grant forced a similar save from Lawrence at the other end and substitute Dylan Knight blasted wide when unmarked at the far post.

Fortunately for Bassett, those latter two spurned efforts kept the margin of defeat down. But this will go down as another opportunity missed courtesy of a second half collapse.

Man of the Match: Kai Robinson – the energetic central midfield impressed mightily - especially in the first half - as he harried the visitors, giving them little time to dwell on the ball.

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