Keeper heroics thwart Ladies' County Cup bid
Sunday 15 April 2018 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 15 April 2018 at 20:38)
Royal Wootton Bassett Town Ladies were beaten 2-0 by Swindon Town Ladies Development in the Wiltshire County Women's Cup Final.
Oakfield Stadium, 15th April 2018
The Wiltshire County Women's Cup final served up a thrillingly tense, evenly-matched contest between Royal Wootton Bassett Town and Swindon Town Development. Come full time, however, there would be disappointment for Bassett, as a pair of goals and an outstanding display from 'keeper Carla Heaton delivered a 2-0 triumph for the Robins.
Given their near identical league records, the County Cup showpiece was always going to be a close affair, and it ended up being fine margins that determined the outcome.
Both teams traded chances in a fast-paced start to the game. And eventually the deadlock was broken with half an hour on the clock as Meghan Larkin struck a free kick from the right side of the box into the top left corner.
Bassett's response was almost immediate, but only served to bring the best out of Heaton. Michelle Rich's powerfully struck free kick took a wicked deflection off the wall, which initially appeared to wrong-foot the Swindon 'keeper, whose dive was taking her body towards the bottom corner where the ball appeared headed.
However, she was able to reverse her direction of travel and parry away. The danger wasn't averted, however, and Laura Jefferies was first to the loose ball. Yet, a heavy first touch ten yards out from the Bassett captain enabled Heaton to smother.
Heaton again came to her team's rescue twice in the second half, preserving a lead they would eventually extend in the closing stages.
After driving past a defender and getting to the byline, Hayley Huckin cut a pass back to an advancing Rich, who attempted to place a controlled effort into the near corner. But Heaton saved well with her feet.
Huckin was next to be denied. Heading down a lofted ball out from defence, she was able to burst clear of the Swindon backline, putting her one-on-one with the 'keeper. Heaton burst off her line though and was able to block Huckin's strike from the edge of the area at point blank range.
Then, with time winding down and Bassett continuing to push for an equaliser, Swindon were able to kill the game off as Shaneez Mwaura fired in a rebounded effort from the edge of the box.
It was a cruel loss for Bassett, who contributed much to an entertaining contest, and means they finished as runners-up in the competition for a second time having also made the final in 2013-14.
Becky Gammon's team can't afford to let the disappointment of defeat linger though, as there's plenty still to play for in what has been another outstanding season for the team.
Bassett remain top of the South West Women's Football League Eastern Division. And they can get their title push back on track on Thursday - when they meet Swindon again.