Sam Collier, Sam Packer, Harvey Scholes
An outstanding Harvey Scholes strike, and further goals from Sam Collier and Sam Packer helped secure a 3-1 FA Vase first qualifying round victory against Fairford Town in an exciting Friday night derby encounter.
Royal Wootton Bassett Town prevailed 3-1 in a lively FA Vase first qualifying round tie against local rivals Fairford Town.
Rich Hunter's side were indebted to a pair of outstanding first half goals, which put them in a commanding position in an end-to-end derby contest that saw both teams create numerous chances.
Harvey Scholes' 15th minute opener was particularly special as the midfield curled a stunning first time effort from just outside the area into the top right corner. His strike was followed by Sam Collier's acrobatic volley seven minutes before the break.
While Bassett put together one of their best attacking performances of the season so far, they were guilty of spurning a pair of further fantastic opportunities that could have then put the game to bed. And when Fairford grabbed a lifeline courtesy of Liam Gale's deflected effort, it was well and truly up for grabs.
However, man of the match Sam Packer – who had played the role of creator for Bassett's opening two goals – finally sealed victory with a late strike.
The bumper crowd at the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground certainly got value for money.
From the start, the attacking intent of both teams was clear. Nathan Gambling headed narrowly over for the visitors with less than two minutes on the clock after Josh Morse's corner picked the burly frontman out at the far post.
Moments later at the other end, Antonio Gerrish stole possession on the edge of the box and opened up space to shoot by a playing a neat one-two with Packer but he saw his firmly struck shot blocked.
The hosts were then fortunate that ex-Bassett man Matt Boucher fizzed a low 20-yard shot narrowly wide as 'keeper Dan Lawrence had his view obscured courtesy of the mass of players in front of him.
A goal seemed inevitable at this point – and it was just a question as to which team were going to strike first.
It proved to be Bassett, and they did so in some style. Callum Wright fizzed a pass into Packer's feet. With his back to goal, the mercurial playmaker played a square ball into Scholes, and he whipped a delightful strike beyond the reach of Ben Mitchell in the visitors' goal.
A second almost followed immediately as Gerrish headed narrowly over from a Wright corner which Mitchell failed to claim.
It eventually arrived courtesy of Collier, a player who is no stranger to getting on the scoresheet in Bassett colours. Although he's been featuring at centre half since rejoining from Thatcham Town, he initially made his name with Bassett as a forward. And his predatory instincts haven't faded.
Another Wright corner was cleared only as far as Scholes, who lifted a diagonal pass to Packer at the right post. He then steered a low cross back into the heart of the danger area, and Collier, after adjusting his body position, struck a sweet sidefoot volley that had too much power for Mitchell.
Still, Bassett weren't able to sit comfortably despite being two goals to the good. The scoreline at that point arguably was harsh on Fairford, who were having the better of the midfield battle. And a well worked move set free Gale in the left corner. However, he was only able to tamely shoot straight at Lawrence when he cut inside full back Kieran Diaz-Benitez.
Squandered chances at the other end made it doubly imperative that Bassett didn't let their performance level drop.
In first half stoppage time, Rory Sproule struck the right post from a matter of yards out when the ball dropped for him following a blocked Collier free kick.
Shortly after the restart, Scholes hit a fierce shot on the turn from a tight angle, which Mitchell batted away before the visiting 'keeper produced a fine point blank save to deny Sproule's close range effort from a Packer cutback.
Fairford were soon to take advantage of the lifeline offered to them by surviving those scares.
With 63 minutes gone, Morse's corner was headed only as far as a lurking, unmarked Gale on the left edge of the area. He twisted his way past the challenges of Kai Robinson and Diaz-Benitez before firing a low strike, which, aided by a deflection off the legs of Collier, nestled intot he bottom corner.
The confidence gained from halving the deficit then led to Fairford enjoying a twenty minute spell in which they were firmly on top.
They were able to force numerous corners, which Bassett defended nervously, while two counters created a pair of openings, the first of which resulted in Morse blazing over from distance, with the second resulting in pinball in the Bassett box after a Lee Smith shot was blocked.
But any hopes of completing a comeback were dashed with six minutes remaining. Chris Jackson clipped a ball into the left channel, which Packer outmuscled Luke Bairstow to latch onto. A slip from the defender allowed Packer to cut inside and he made no mistake, drilling beyond Mitchell from ten yards out.
The final score could have been even more convincing as substitute Ben Lodge raced onto a through ball from Steve Yeardley and steered a delicate chip over the onrushing Mitchell agonisingly wide.
The outcome had already been determined though, and Bassett had booked a winnable home second qualifying round tie against Spartan South Midlands League Division One outfit Codicote.
Man of the Match: Sam Packer – Fairford's defence had no answer for Packer as he ran them ragged all night. His goal was fully deserved, capping another brilliant display in which he played a part in all three of his team's goals.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Sunday 10th September 2017 at 12:42
Sam Collier, Sam Packer, Harvey Scholes