A much improved display from Royal Wootton Bassett Town wasn't enough to prevent a 2-0 home defeat against Flackwell Heath.
Royal Wootton Bassett Town may have fallen to a sixth defeat in a row, but, despite losing 2-0, there were positives to take from a promising display that saw them run fifth-placed Flackwell Heath close.
Come full time it was Flackwell's clinical finishing that proved the difference between the two teams, as they punished Bassett for a pair of unfortunate errors in a game that was short on chances for both sides.
However, given the tumultuous events of the past few days and the sub-par displays that have blighted Bassett in recent weeks, this was a massive improvement from the hosts. From the first whistle to the last they demonstrated doggedness and passion, two characteristics that have been lacking in previous outings. And, with their form being what it was, they perhaps surprised Flackwell.
Nevertheless Flackwell have an extra edge about them that rarely fails to shine through. It's why they have consistently been one of the Hellenic League Premier Division's highest performance over the past handful of seasons.
And, after having to be patient for the opening half hour, they were able to demonstrate that quality and take the lead in a first half that until the appeared destined to end goalless. Receiving the ball in the right channel, Francis Amartey cut inside and, taking advantage of a slip, curled a low left-foot drive from twenty yards beyond Dan Lawrence at his near post.
Bassett briefly appeared unnerved by the goal and a fine reaction save from Lawrence denied Charlie Samuel what would have been a quickfire second after Amartey beat Dale Richards in the air to head down a towering cross to his strike partner.
Shane Hibbert then could have had an equaliser when he raced onto a Lewis Waldon flick, but he came under enough defensive pressure to force a rushed shot that fell off target.
The game by now had opened up, with Lawrence repelling an Amartey drive after the forward had surged by Chris Jackson.
At the other end, the hosts were unfortunate not to go into the break on level terms as an outstanding save prevented Waldon. Play was switched from left to right before Tony Joyce's clever reverse pass set in Waldon, and he produced a precise snap strike from an angle that David Lyons was forced to stoop low and steer around his near post.
While that meant Bassett were behind at the break, there was still reason to hope a point or more was salvageable on the basis of the first half display.
But those hopes suffered a cruel blow within two minutes of the restart. A loose pass from Joyce fell short of its intended targeted Gio Wrona and was seized upon by Flackwell, who quickly switched play. Dean Allen then played a through ball for the overlapping Samuel, who buried a powerful shot into the back of the net from just inside the box.
Bassett refused to give up though. Yet Flackwell's stubborn backline proved difficult to unlock.
Despite their positive play, it wasn't until the 88th minute that Bassett fashioned an opening. Patient build up play eventually led to substitute Josh Coombe steering a low cross into the box, which Wrona guided narrowly wide with a first time attempt.
In the dying moments, two counter attacks almost led to Flackwell extending their lead further, though any further goals would have flattered them. A fortunate bounce following a Jonny Aitkenhead slide tackle saw Jordan Dowdican hit the post before Samuel had a shot blocked on the line by Corcoran.
The three points were safe for the visitors though. But Bassett had certainly made the Heathens put in a shift to secure them.
Man of the Match: Jonny Aitkenhead – outstanding at the back as he dealt brilliantly and bravely with the attacking threat Flackwell posed.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 20th January 2018 at 19:03