Richards stunner proves the difference in tense derby
Tuesday 07 August 2018 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 08 August 2018 at 16:12)
A Dale Richards thunderbolt helped secure the points for Royal Wootton Bassett Town as they defeated local rivals Fairford Town 2-1.
Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, 7th August 2018
Royal Wootton Bassett Town made it two wins out of two with a hard fought 2-1 victory in an entertaining derby encounter against Fairford Town.
A 31st minute wondergoal from Dale Richards ultimately proved the difference between the teams, though Bassett were made to sweat as Ben Lodge's late deflected effort offered the Reds a lifeline which they almost snatched deep into second half stoppage time.
Despite facing a side who finished last season in eighteenth place, Sam Collier was well aware that Fairford were always going to pose a threat. Entering his second season in charge, manager Jody Bevan has recruited well, while his side showed their potential in a narrow opening day defeat against popular title tip Wantage Town.
In their opener it was a late slip up that cost them a point. However, against Bassett they suffered an early lapse that wound up being costly as with just two minutes on the clock the hosts went ahead.
TJ Bohane chested down a Richards cross to strike partner Brad Pagliaroli on the edge of the area. And, after quickly shifting the ball onto his right foot to open up an angle to shoot, he struck a powerful effort that bounced back down off the crossbar. Josh Shama was then quickest to react to the loose ball, charging in to narrowly beat 'keeper Ben Mitchell and bundle home from close range.
The goal was followed by a spell in which Bassett were largely on top. But two opportunities to extend their early advantage were passed up as Richards snatched at a near post header from a Gio Wrona corner before Wrona blasted into the side netting from a tight angle when he turned up the opportunity to square inside.
Fairford soon overcame their initial jitters though and came into the game well. And the dangerous Lee Smith steered an outside of the boot effort narrowly over after he had cut inside from the right hand side and navigated his way past two attempted tackles.
The visitors then passed up a golden opportunity when clever play from Lodge had the Bassett defence turned and he played in speedy centre forward John Thomas with a defence splitting through pass. However, the forward, who scored two goals on his debut on Saturday, skewed wide when he had just 'keeper Alex Bowers to beat.
Bassett quickly proceeded to quickly punish Fairford for their profligacy. And they did so in stunning fashion.
Despite being tightly marked, Shama was able to control a cross-field Wrona ball and shrug off the attentions of full back Josh Jones. After galloping down the right side, the winger arrowed a pinpoint cutback to the advancing Richards, who took one touch before unleashing an unstoppable, swerving left-foot thunderbolt from 25 yards that flew into the top right corner.
Mitchell was rooted to the spot, there being absolutely nothing he – or probably any 'keeper in the world - could do to keep Richards' shot out.
Shortly before the break, Wrona almost added a third, curling narrowly over after a Rob Lincoln shot had been blocked.
Although having a two-goal lead was a commanding position to be in when half time arrived, Fairford had shown enough in the first half to keep Bassett aware that they were still very much in the game.
And after Lincoln squandered a superb chance to put the result beyond doubt seven minutes after the restart, the winger dwindling a second too long on the ball to allow Robbie James to make a goal-denying tackle, the visitors upped the ante to try and claw their way back.
Just before the hour Fairford felt they should have had a penalty for an alleged Richards handball. On closer inspection, however, such an award would have been harsh, as the defender appeared to inadvertently head the ball onto his own arm when seeking to clear away while under pressure from Smith.
Minutes later James' glancing header from a Jones corner went narrowly wide. The defender then headed a Smith free kick onto the bar ten minutes later.
Collier's decision to make a defence-minded change when withdrawing the lively Shama did serve to invite extra pressure from the visitors. Nevertheless, Bassett's defence, marshalled expertly by veteran Steve Yeardley and promising youngster Harrison Gough, performed diligently.
A clean sheet therefore appeared on the cards. But, after Wrona – making his only mistake of the night – was caught in possession inside his own half in the first minute of stoppage time, Lodge found room to shoot just outside the box and, catching a deflection on the way, looped in over Bowers to halve the deficit.
A nerve-wracking ending then ensued. Fairford were able to force one final corner, which Jones delivered into a box packed with the remaining twenty-one players on the pitch. Somehow Nathan Hawkins was able to find space, and he stooped low to head towards goal, yet could only guide the ball inches wide of the left post, much to the relief of the hosts.
Bassett's perfect start to the season therefore continues, their second win arguably being another deserved one, albeit one which they had to fight for from start to finish.
Man of the Match: Gio Wrona – with his sensible, near-perfect distribution, the central midfielder was outstanding in the middle of the park for Bassett. He linked up well with both defence and attack and helped break up a number of forays forward from Fairford before they threatened the defence