Defence make their case as Scholes seals road win
Saturday 16 December 2017 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 16 December 2017 at 20:31)
A resolute defensive display and Harvey Scholes' 72nd minute goal secured a 1-0 victory for Royal Wootton Bassett Town away at Ascot United.
Racecourse Ground, 16th December 2017
Recent weeks haven't been kind for Royal Wootton Bassett Town's defence, with nineteen goals conceded in the five games prior to their trip to face Ascot United.
But they responded with a sterling display to shutout a Yellamen outfit, who, while struggling, have picked up form in recent weeks. And with Harvey Scholes netting the only goal of the game in the 72nd minute, it meant Rich Hunter's team came away from Berkshire with an important, hard-fought three points that helps strengthen Bassett's position in the top half of the Hellenic League Premier Division.
Playing Lewis Waldon on his own up front, Bassett set themselves up with the aim of soaking up any pressure their hosts would put them under, relying on counter attacks and quick balls forward to their pacy frontman.
It was a tactic that ultimately succeeded. Yet it was also one that required resolute, assured defending.
After a somewhat shaky start, which saw Trevor Mutero skew over and Ben Harris head narrowly over from close range following Ascot breaks, they settled down well, limiting the opportunities the hosts could create despite the fact they spent the majority of the first half pinning Bassett deep in their own half.
When Bassett were able to venture into Ascot territory, they threatened. On the quarter hour mark, Waldon burst down the right, cutting back from the byline for an unmarked Gio Wrona, who skied his effort. Steve Yeardley was next to come close, but could only direct his header from Macaulay Dodson's cross straight into the arms of home 'keeper Lee Allen.
Kurtis Sharkey in the Bassett goal was finally called into action half an hour in, tipping Samir Regragui's tight angle shot around the near post after he had latched onto a Harris through ball. The shotstopper was then equal to a fierce 25-yard drive from Callum Carlisle on the stroke of half time to ensure the teams went in level at the break.
The same pattern of play emerged after the restart. However, as the game opened up, it played more into Bassett's hands, enabling them to increasingly test a vulnerable looking Ascot backline.
They initially had their own defending to do, with Regragui seeing a shot from the edge of the box deflected wide after receiving a Harris square ball before Harris cut inside from the right and forced Sharkey to save low at his near post.
Between those opportunities, Waldon had come close to putting Bassett in front. Driving down the left, he played an intricate give-and-go with Scholes that left him with just Allen to beat, but the Ascot gloveman was fast as a flash off his line, smothering at the forward's feet.
A period of Bassett dominance soon ensued, which eventually would lead to the goal.
Carl Evans couldn't believe he had been denied when he saw his header from an inswinging Wrona corner and rebound stab at goal both blocked on the line. The resultant set piece then had Allen flapping, with a header off the line sparing the 'keeper's blushes.
The visitors continued to press, and Scholes was a whisker away when his fizzing twenty-yard strike grazed the top of the bar.
Three minutes later, he made no mistake. Sam Collier's pass out from the back set Dale Richards free down the left side. The substitute's one-two with Waldon then opened up the defence and, shooting from a tight angle, he forced an awkward parry from Lee, which fell to a gambling Scholes running in at the far post, and he bundled in.
Ascot now threw all they had at Bassett, but the visitors refused to yield, Evans producing a fine sliding tackle to cut out what would have been a tap-in for Regragui after Harris had caught out Collier.
The visitors could even have killed off the game when Waldon breezed past Ryan Cooper in the right channel before dragging wide from fifteen yards; a square pass to an onrushing Wrona and Scholes arguably would have been the better option.
They could have been left to rue that miss, but a stunning fingertip save from Sharkey in stoppage time preserved the points. Play was worked back to substitute Matt Jones and he unleashed a fierce strike from twenty yards, which caught a deflection off a teammate. Sharkey flew to his right, and got enough on the ball to tip it onto the bar before it was safely scrambled away.
Man of the Match: Carl Evans – Bassett were excellent across the back, but Evans was the standout player, excelling at centre half. He snuffed out numerous attacks with his assured, calm defensive play, while he was sensible in his use of the ball when in possession.