Brad Pagliaroli (2), Matt Bennett
Windsor came back from 3-0 down to defeat Royal Wootton Bassett Town by the odd goal in seven in a Hellenic League Premier Division thriller.
Royal Wootton Bassett Town saw a three-goal advantage slip as a stunning comeback from Windsor saw the hosts strike four times in a frenzied second half to claim the points in a thrilling advert for Hellenic League football.
From start to finish, the 'Royal Derby' served up a feast of attacking football.
Windsor struck the woodwork four times in an end-to-end opening half, but found themselves 2-0 down at half time as Matt Bennett and Brad Pagliaroli struck for Bassett.
A superb counter attack then resulted in Pagliaroli's second of the game shortly after the restart. That could well have represented his side's fourth, but the visitors had spurned two golden opportunities in the preceding minutes.
Windsor re-grouped though, and grabbed a lifeline when Ashley Smith headed in unmarked from substitute Joshua Masters' cross. Their tails were then wagging when, a minute later, Jeevan Panesar seized on a defensive error and thrashed home an unstoppable 25-yard effort.
The equaliser eventually arrived with just over quarter of an hour remaining as Windsor made their relentless pressure tell. Smith, making a run inside from the right touchline, latched onto Paul Coyne's precise through ball and made no mistake.
They then summoned up a winner in some style as Malachi Thomas' thunderous volley flew into the top corner on 84 minutes.
For Sam Collier's young team, it was a bitter, sickening pill to swallow. No team should go on to lose a game from the position they were in.
But to describe what transpired as a Bassett collapse would be unfair on Windsor, whose attacking display throughout the game was simply sensational.
Their visitors gave as good as they got too. Their performance, particularly in the first half, was a canny one. Having noted how Windsor played in their FA Cup replay at Highworth Town in the week, Collier adopted a 4-5-1 formation, and it functioned well as Bassett looked threatening on the break.
The tone of the game was set in the opening minutes as close-range shots from Panesar and Bennett forced fine reaction saves from 'keepers Hugo Sobte and Alex Bowers.
Windsor then struck the woodwork for the first time on eleven minutes as Smith rose to redirect Keaton August's left-wing delivery across goal and onto the base of the post.
Panesar was next, taking a short free kick from Coyne before smashing a powerful long-range drive off the right upright.
Windsor's constant switching of play was causing Bassett trouble. And one such moment almost brought the opener. The ball was sprayed out to August on the left and he crossed for Matthew Woods, whose close-range attempt was met by an important block from Harrison Gough.
Bassett made the most of a well-executed attack to take the lead on the half hour mark though. Wrona picked out Rob Lincoln with a cross-field pass, and after cutting in from the left the winger's daisy-cutter of a shot came back out off the post. The initial rebound fell for Kai Robinson, whose effort was blocked, but Bennett was on hand to pick up the pieces and buried home from a tight angle.
Ten minutes later it was two as Windsor were caught on the break. Lincoln worked well with Dale Richards to steal possession deep inside their own half, and proceeded to go on a lung-bursting run that covered three-quarters the length of the pitch. After flying into the box past centre half Victor Ocansey, his cut back found its way to Pagliaroli via Bennett, and Bassett's leading scorer so far this season fashioned enough space to steer inside the near post.
That wasn't the end of the first half action though as Daniel Roberts saw both a tight-angled shot and free header from a well-worked short corner rebound off the upright.
Bassett's goal had certainly lived a charmed life in the opening period. However, the difference between the teams at the break was the visitors' clinical finishing.
But, crucially, that deserted them twice inside the early stages of the second half. Lincoln found himself in behind the Windsor defence but his shot was repelled by Sobte. Pagliaroli then had the chance to cut back for either Bennett or the onrushing Gio Wrona after he had cut inside from the right, but instead opted to open fire from a tight angle and struck straight at Sobte.
Pagliaroli did make no mistake when Lincoln's inside run and through pass set him free to make it 3-0.
Yet that advantage ultimately would not be enough.
Windsor's attacking play become more urgent, a flicked header from Roberts being tipped over by Bowers on the hour. And they soon were back in it when Smith raced clear of his marker to head in.
Within seconds, their faint hopes of turning the game around were transformed. Dwelling on the ball deep in his own half, right back George Lance had his pocket picked, and Panesar seized on that costly error by blasting home from distance.
Bassett's defence was now forced to fight a fierce rearguard battle as Windsor continued to open them up. They were fortunate to retain their lead when Masters snatched at a shot, guiding the ball into the clutches of Bowers from six yards out, after Smith had got beyond Richards.
A brief respite from Windsor's pressure almost led to a fourth though. Pagliaroli forced an outstretched Sobte to tip away, but the rebound appeared to drop perfectly for Bennett to follow up, but a bobble led to a scuffed strike that the 'keeper gratefully smothered.
Smith then got the hosts back on level terms before a fine tackle from Ocansey halted a surging Bennett as the Bassett forward bore down on goal.
If a winning goal was to arrive though, you had the sense it would be for Windsor. And that duly occurred. Roberts chested down a throw in for Thomas and the substitute forward produced a phenomenal volley that Bowers was powerless to do anything about.
There was still time left on the clock to Bassett to try and muster a response. But the wind had well and truly been taken from their sails.
And the only incident of note from an attempted attack resulted in a red card for Adam Corcoran, who allegedly kicked out at Andrew Ingram after they went up to challenge for a free kick.
The outcome of the game was arguably a fair one. But the gut-wrenching way in which Bassett suffered defeat was hard to stomach.
It's how you respond to setbacks like this that reveal the true character of a team though.
And the important week ahead – including derbies against Fairford Town and Shrivenham with an FA Cup tie against Lydney Town in between – will certainly be a test of that.
Man of the match: Rob Lincoln – the tireless winger was involved in all three of Bassett's goals, with his contributions to set up the second and third strikes being especially impressive.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Sunday 19th August 2018 at 18:32
Brad Pagliaroli (2), Matt Bennett