Royal Wootton Bassett Town were overwhelmed on their return to Hellenic League Premier Division action as they were hammered 6-0 by Thatcham Town.
It took an outstanding performance from 'keeper Dan Lawrence to ensure Royal Wootton Bassett Town suffered no further humiliation as they were thrashed 6-0 by high-flying Thatcham Town in their opening league encounter of the new year.
The second-place side were in formidable, unforgiving form, the gulf between them and Bassett being such that if it was a boxing match the referee would have intervened to call it off early.
Rich Hunter's team were treated as a punching bag by their hosts, with the only resistance they encountered being that provided by a superb Lawrence, who pulled off close to a dozen saves as the goal he was guarding was constantly peppered with shots.
With Gio Wrona, Steve Yeardley and Jonny Aitkenhead still suspended thanks to the abandonment of Bassett's midweek visit to Highworth Town, Bassett's were without three critical players forming the spine of the team. And in their absence, the midfield was completely overrun, while the defence wasn't helped by the forced early withdrawal of Sam Collier through injury.
The scale of the task at hand was evident as early as the second minute as Liam Ferdinand's firm strike forced a parry from Lawrence and the same player conspired to spoon over after Shane Cooper-Clark was quickest to the rebound.
Thatcham were swarming all over Bassett, and it was a surprise that the breakthrough came only three minutes before half time.
But Ferdinand was finding Lawrence tough to beat. On eleven minutes Lawrence batted away his attempted lob at point blank range, before he turned a shot on the turn from the striker around the post ten minutes later.
Another fine save denied Ferdinand following a Tom Melledew through ball and the 'keeper sprung to his feet to ensure Harrison Bayley's follow up was tipped over the bar.
A rare venture into Thatcham territory then almost brought Bassett a goal as the hosts seemed to switch off, but 'keeper Chris Rackley was fast off his line to block Dale Richards' tight angle shot after the unmarked full back was picked out at the far post by Harvey Scholes' delivery.
The action quickly returned to the other end, with Tom Moran heading into the hands of Lawrence and Cooper-Clark curling wide. A thunderous strike from Melledew then had Lawrence beat, but it crashed off the post. The rebound fell for Ferdinand ten yards out, but he could only head over.
Finally, a goal arrived and it came in style. Curtis Angell played a pass into the space between centre half and left back which Cooper-Clark latched onto, and he picked out Ferdinand with a clever back heel from which his strike partner thrashed home.
A similar story played out in the second period, but this time Thatcham were able to force open the floodgates with three goals in a five minute spell.
On 56 minutes, a lovely move involving Melledew and Bayley sliced open the Bassett midfield, opening up room for Cooper-Clark to shoot. Lawrence pulled off a fine reaction save, but the rebound dropped for Ferdinand who headed in.
Three minutes later, Cooper-Clark beat the offside trap to race onto Ferdinand's hooked pass, and coolly slotted beyond Lawrence from a tight angle.
Less than a minute on, Richards tripped Bayley in the box and Ferdinand completed his hat-trick with an emphatic penalty.
Bassett should then have had a spot kick of their own – not that it would have in any way changed the complexion of the game – when Lewis Waldon appeared to have been hauled down by Rackley. However, referee Lee Suggett saw differently, deciding to book the Bassett forward for diving before dismissing Collier from the bench for protesting the decision.
As time wound down, Thatcham continued to turn the screw, knowing that they could close the goal difference gap between themselves and Highworth, idle for the weekend, as well as their points deficit. They were helped by Bassett playing safe in the knowledge that their race was run.
Lawrence continued to demonstrate his quality to the end though, tipping a Cooper-Clark shot wide at the near post after he had shrugged off the attentions of Tony Joyce and doing the same to keep out sub Nat Robinson's strike.
But, after seeing a Ferdinand header crash off the bar, there was little he could do to deny Thatcham's fifth, which saw Bayley guide in Tom Browne's sublime left-wing cross.
Their sixth then arrived with two minutes remaining. Bassett were again overrun and a cross from the right pinballed around the box with Ferdinand eventually sweeping up to notch his fourth of the afternoon.
Man of the Match: Dan Lawrence – the young 'keeper was outstanding and was the ultimate difference between a thrashing and a double digit humiliation. While conceding six, there was little he could do about any of the goals. Lawrence should come out of this game with his head held high despite the score.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 13th January 2018 at 19:04