Late drama delivers deserved point

Saturday 10 March 2018 - by Stuart (Updated on 10 March 2018 at 22:39)

Dale Richards scored a dramatic 90th minute equaliser to seal a point for Royal Wootton Bassett Town in an entertaining 1-1 draw with Abingdon United.

Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, 10th March 2017

Despite an impressive performance - which included fine displays from young debutants Alex Bowers and George Staten, it appeared as though Royal Wootton Bassett Town were going to come up empty-handed once more against visitors Abingdon United.

And when Callum Wright curled a stunning last minute free kick onto the underside of the crossbar frustration seemed as though it would be the feeling Sam Collier's side would finish the game with.

However, within seconds Bassett had grabbed a deserved equaliser, the rebound dropping for Dale Richards, who, with extreme composure, drilled a half volley from twelve yards into the back of the net.

Richards' first goal of the season ensured a fair outcome to what had been a closely fought encounter. Both sides were more confident in attack than they were in defence and that led to them trading periods when they were the team on the top.

Initially it was Abingdon - whose football was positive throughout - holding the whip hand, which resulted in the visitors taking an eighth minute lead.

With the Bassett midfield standing off, they were able to comfortably work the ball from left to right. Right back Cian McCormack had moved into an advanced position, and after receiving possession he steered a low cross into the box, which John Dennis was first to meet, the forward steering a delicate first time shot past Bowers and in off the post.

Although taking time to settle, Bassett's response was almost instant as Ryan Withers - another youngster who performed well - raced onto Gio Wrona's defence splitting through ball. But the forward rushed his shot, allowing Henry Woodcock to save on the dive.

Passed played in behind proved to be a vulnerability for both defences, with Bassett next to be caught out.

Tom Butler was the recipient of such a pass on nineteen minutes and strode forward with purpose before being brought down by Bowers outside the penalty area. Fortunately for the young shotstopper, Steve Yeardley was providing cover, while Butler was going away from goal at the point of contact, resulting in only a caution from the referee.

The 'keeper remained a key part of the action shortly after, maintaining focus to track McCormack's deflected shot and prevent it from sneaking in at the right post.

Save for Butler heading over after a quick counter, for the remainder of the half it was Bassett who appeared in the ascendancy. The pace of Withers and probing play from the likes of Kai Robinson and Staten - who really stood out at left wing back - was asking questions of Abingdon, with equalising goals nearly arriving on two occasions before the break.

After racing onto a chipped Wright pass, Withers cut inside from the right and fired over from the edge of the box when a pass inside to an onrushing Wrona may have been the better option.

Then, in stoppage time Wrona won a free kick just outside the area, which Jon Beeden sent towards the top corner only to see Woodcock fingertip over.

Woodcock again denied Beeden shortly after the restart, clawing a header away after the defender had met a Wrona corner at the far post.

The home side seemed to have lost their momentum though and had an offside flag to thank for the fact they weren't two behind on the hour as Butler had a tap in ruled out after Sam Wharton's twisting run and pass.

The visitors came close again when Kyle Moss' dipping thirty-yard strike flew narrowly over before a goalmouth scramble at the other end saw Richards unable to turn home when getting at least two bites at the cherry.

With time winding down, Bassett were committing more men forward in desperate search of a leveller, and that exposed them more at the back. An attempted lob by substitute Callum Harvey floated safely into the hands of Bowers after he had had been played in by Butler.

Then, with seven minutes left, Abingdon quickly moved the ball forward after a Bassett attack broke down. That left Graham Edney with a free run on goal. However, his progress was abruptly interrupted by a trailing Yeardley, who dragged the forward down outside the box and correctly received a red card for his actions. In fairness it was the only action the veteran defender could take as Edney was either going to score or, if impeded any later, certain to win a penalty.

Going down to ten men was set to make life tougher though. And the game was almost over when an audacious long range free kick from Dennis almost caught out Bowers, who was not expecting a shot. The 'keeper, reacting quickly, was able to recover enough ground and punch over before holding on from a McCormack shot a minute later.

The lifeline that saved offered was soon seized upon. With ninety minutes on the clock, Withers was fouled on the left edge of the box. Wright stepped up and produced a free kick that had Woodcock beat only to be denied by the woodwork. Luck was finally on Bassett's side though, and Richards was in place to drill into the back of the net.

It was almost the prelude to a thrilling come from behind win too. After blocking a clearance, Robinson jumped on the loose ball before being hauled down by McCormack, who was duly dismissed.

Wright again lined up the free kick, at least thirty yards from goal, and smashed a thunderous strike towards goal. Woodcock was unable to react to the ball, which, though hit towards the middle of goal, moved sharply. For the second time in as many minutes, however, the crossbar would get in the way.

It meant the spoils were to be shared after an entertaining, eventful ninety minutes of football. While a long-awaited return to winning ways in the league does remain elusive for Bassett, this was a result they can be satisfied with.

Not least for the promise shown by the fearless youngsters given their chance to impress.

Man of the Match: George Staten - stepping up from the Development team, the seventeen year old performed extremely well in his full first team debut. Staten was, sensible and effective with his passing, unafraid to run at the Abingdon backline and, importantly given he was playing at wing back, willing to contribute at both ends of the pitch.

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