Below par Bassett eke out seventh straight win
Saturday 30 September 2017 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 01 October 2017 at 16:32)
Despite a disappointing performance, Royal Wootton Bassett Town made it seven straight wins as they defeated bottom side Burnham 3-1 in the Hellenic League Premier Division.
Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, 30th September 2017
It's often said that it's the sign of a good team when you win despite not playing well. However, Royal Wootton Bassett Town will be hoping to avoid another performance like the one they produced in a 3-1 victory against Burnham.
While Bassett's winning streak extended to seven games, their play was poor as they sought to overplay and created more problems for themselves than should have been the case against a side currently occupying bottom spot in the Hellenic League Premier Division.
In the end, Rich Hunter's team were helped significantly by a soft penalty award at the start of the second half, with Steve Yeardley's spot kick breaking a 1-1 tie before Sam Packer grabbed a third on the hour.
Hopes of a routine victory were high six minutes into the game when Sam Collier put his team in front. Right back Keiran Diaz-Benitez provided an outstanding assist for the goal, running half the length of the pitch with the ball before riding a tackle and delivering a fine cross, which an unmarked Collier swept in from close range.
Although their play lacked the fluency of previous weeks, Bassett still could have been out of sight by the twentieth minute, but Gio Wrona and Packer both headed off target from excellent positions, with the former in particular wasting a fantastic opportunity as he was completely unmarked when ten yards out.
Taking advantage of those let-offs, Burnham started to work their way into the contest and, aided by their hosts' sloppy play, came close to equalising on the half hour mark when Billy Dunbar's snap shot from the edge of the area went narrowly over after a free kick had been pumped forward and not cleared.
At the other end, Bassett continued to struggle to find their range as Packer hammered into the side netting when played in on goal by Collier's cross-field pass.
A period of Burnham pressured followed from which they would get back on level terms.
They were unfortunate to be denied a penalty nine minutes before the break when Yeardley was guilty of a push when going up for a header. The offence appeared to have taken place just inside the box, but a free kick was awarded instead, and that was blocked by Diaz-Benitez in the wall.
Dunbar then struck wide after latching onto a pass down the middle, which split the home defence.
The Burnham frontman finally found the net though. Possessing the ball in the right corner, the diminutive yet dangerous Callum Collings' excellent turn took him away from two Bassett defenders and stood up a cross to the far post, which Dunbar emphatically headed home.
It was the first time Bassett had conceded in 400 minutes of football, and with the score tied at the break after Yeardley saw a header from a Wrona corner blocked on the line, their winning run was clearly under threat too.
A fortunate penalty two minutes after the restart put them back on track though. Diaz-Benitez flicked on a Wrona corner to Yeardley, who, when seeking to create space for a shot, was caught and made the most of the contact. He proceeded to dust himself off and sent 'keeper Samuel Bunting the wrong way from twelve yards.
Chances continued to be created at both ends though. Burnham appeared to have pegged Bassett back immediately as Dunbar's right wing free kick was helped on and bundled in at the left post only for an offside flag to rule the goal out.
Callum Wright then was brilliantly denied by Bunting, who tipped the midfielder's powerful 15 yard strike around the post following a Packer cut back.
However, the 'keeper could do little to keep Packer out as his wonderful solo goal made it 3-1 in the 62nd minute. Taking up possession on the right wing, the Bassett playmaker went on a weaving diagonal run across the face of goal. After twisting his way past two defenders, he drew Bunting off his line and clipped a delicate left-foot chip over his shoulder, which trickled in.
His eighth goal of the season proved to be a worthy match winner. But there was still a testing half hour or so of play to see out.
And Burnham came close to halving their deficit when Collings' teasing cross was headed just over from Dunbar from ten yards out.
As the visitors desperately tried to get back into the game, there were opportunities for Bassett to pull further ahead. Yet, some disappointing finishing and another superb stop from Bunting denied them.
Outstanding interplay between Antonio Gerrish and Packer in a tight space on the left hand side eventually led to the latter being set up by a cut back, but last week's hat trick hero couldn't add to his tally this week as he shot over.
A give-and-go with substitute Aaron Maximen created another opportunity for Packer but this time his low curling effort was batted away before he slotted wide from an inviting Gerrish through ball.
Man of the Match: Antonio Gerrish – an excellent display in centre midfield from the all-action youngster. Gerrish's moved the ball around well, linking defence and attack, while he was always quick to win possession back when his team lost it, throwing himself into numerous blocks and tackles.