Defence hits rock bottom in Highmoor loss
Saturday 23 December 2017 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 23 December 2017 at 20:24)
Defensive mistakes proved costly again for Royal Wootton Bassett Town as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat against bottom place side Highmoor Ibis.
Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, 23rd December 2017
Royal Wootton Bassett Town suffered a humiliating 3-1 reverse at home against basement dwellers Highmoor Ibis as their recent defensive woes resurfaced.
Last weekend's clean sheet at Ascot United proved nothing more than an aberration, with clumsy errors at the back leading to all three of Highmoor's goals. And it meant that, despite dominating play in the second period, Bassett were left empty-handed on an afternoon when there were no excuses not to get something out of the game.
That's meant as no disrespect to Highmoor. The visitors took their chances, their second goal being a finish of the highest calibre. Meanwhile, they defended their lead diligently, absorbing the pressure Bassett put them under. Yet their league record going into the match meant that Rich Hunter's side should have been heavy favourites to win.
Instead, they suffered a confidence sapping defeat just three days away from a derby meeting with the attacking force of Hellenic League Premier Division leaders Highworth Town.
Bassett's form over the last month has been nothing short of perplexing. The thrashing of Binfield and hard-fought triumphs against Woodley United and Ascot United aside, they have looked nothing like a side currently occupying eighth place.
And their biggest weakness has been exposed in defence. It doesn't help that the back four is constantly in flux, thanks to injury and availability issues. But, with goals at a premium at the other end, the defensive fragility has led to a disappointing run of recent results.
Against Highmoor, Bassett had a large share of the possession early on, but were finding it difficult to create openings in the final third. The best they could must was a 25th minute chance which saw Dale Richards thrash into the side netting from an angle after latching onto Chris Jackson's through.
The situation therefore required a stable defensive effort, so as not to find themselves in a position where they were having to play from behind. That didn't transpire though.
Instead, Highmoor were gifted a completely avoidable penalty two minutes after Richards' miss as Adam Corcoran bundled Joe Joslyn to the ground when the forward was at the byline and going away from goal. Their first shot on goal was thus an unopposed one from twelve yards, and Kieran Maylen managed to squeak the penalty past Kurtis Sharkey, who got a hand to the ball.
Neither side continued to create much, though Highmoor did come close to a second when Jamal Whyte surged through the home defence only to see his effort parried wide as he sought to round Sharkey and slot in from an angle.
Another defensive mistake led to the second goal ten minutes before the break though. Dale Richards failed to clear from Jamie Porter's long throw and his weak hack at the ball fell perfectly into the path of centre half Ricardo Catlyn, who produced a thunderous first-time drive from twenty-five yards that flew into the top right corner and certainly ranks as one of the best goals seen at Bassett's new ground.
Trailing by two goals, Bassett knew they would need to throw everything they had at Highmoor after the restart. And they created numerous early opportunities, with Gio Wrona curling over and Lewis Waldon steering narrowly wide before seeing a low strike held on the dive by Cameron Cook.
The visitors were pinned deep, with there being little respite, at least until Bassett shot at goal. Their lack of composure was proving to be extremely costly, no more so than when Wrona skied over from ten yards following a well worked move and Harvey Scholes cut back.
That failure to find the net then almost proved fatal with twenty minutes remaining when Whyte seized on a misplaced Corcoran backpass only to be denied by Sharkey, who threw himself at the forward's feet to smother and deny what would have been a simple finish.
Finally, Bassett's pressure told in the 78th minute, Scholes crossing from the right and Wrona producing a sidefoot finish at the left post.
Yet their foothold back in the game lasted all of two minutes thanks to another calamitous defensice mistake.
In his efforts to prevent a corner, Chris Jackson was unable to fully regain possession, allowing Whyte to deliver a cross into the box. The ball fell for Corcoran, but his first touch was a heavy one, and Bailey Roffey was on hand to take advantage as he steered in from twelve yards.
Bassett did have a final chance to grab another goal when they were awarded a last minute penalty for a barge on Waldon. The spot kick was a perfect summation of Bassett's dismal day though as Wrona sent it into orbit.
Man of the Match: Matt Cheetham – the midfielder was withdrawn shortly after the hour mark, but had been his usual all-action self during his time on the pitch, battling away and working hard to help his side try and recover from the predicament they had got themselves into.