TJ Bohane, Josh Shama, Gio Wrona
Ten man Royal Wootton Bassett Town clawed their way back from an early 2-0 deficit to level against Lydney Town. But ultimately they would lose 5-3 in an eventful Emirates FA Cup preliminary round replay.
Royal Wootton Bassett Town's FA competition history is littered with games where, come full time, you are pondering the question "if only". And their 2018-19 Emirates FA Cup preliminary round replay against Lydney Town can be added to that lengthy list.
Bassett succumbed to a 5-3 defeat in a game that was the complete opposite to the stultifying 0-0 draw played out ten days ago.
Ultimately it was sloppy defending in critical moments, first class finishing from the hosts and abysmal officiating that conspired against Bassett.
But, having played the best part of an hour with ten men - and clawed back a two-goal deficit before the break while playing with that numerical disadvantage - the question will linger as to what the outcome could have been had Dale Richards not received his marching orders.
The defender was deemed guilty of a handball on the line when Sam Elliott's powerful header from a Dan Morgan corner had squirmed out of the hands of Alex Bowers and caught Richards, stationed directly next to his 'keeper after covering the post, on the arm.
It was eerily reminiscent of what transpired in the FA Vase at Horndean last season – a harsh red card for a handball that was clearly not deliberate. Surely it should have crossed the referee's mind that no player would purposefully seek to handle in that situation when his team were already a goal down?
Alas, the decision was made, Richards marched off for an early shower, and Ross Gabriel swept home the penalty.
That added to Dave Jenkins' earlier goal, which the Lydney midfielder cleverly flicked in at the near post from Liam Sheppard's low cross, the hosts clinically capitalising on a wayward ball forward from Steve Yeardley.
It could even have been Lydney's third, but the crossbar had denied Lewis Thompson when he fired on the turn from close range having been gifted too much room in the box.
After netting from the spot, Gabriel was then denied by a stunning, acrobatic save from Bowers as he got in front of his marker and headed towards goal from twelve yards.
That they trailed by two goals was something of a relief for Bassett. Still, a man down as well, the situation should have been terminal for their hopes. But, courageously, Sam Collier's team fought back.
There was concern they would be reduced to nine men though when, just after the half hour mark, TJ Bohane reacted somewhat over-zealously after being the victim of a heavy challenge. The hosts were baying for red, yet the referee – who had long lost control of the game - produced only a caution.
Less than thirty seconds later, Bohane scored, rising highest at the far post to redirect Gio Wrona's free kick into the top left corner with a stooping header.
Then, four minutes before the break, Bassett pulled themselves level. Lydney were guilty of failing to clear their line, and the ball broke for Rob Lincoln, who powered his way to the byline before cutting back for Josh Shama to sweep in from ten yards.
Lincoln had been causing all kinds of problems for right back Keelan Hamblett, while Shama's pace was also proving tricky for the home side to cope with on the opposite wing. And early in the second period it was Bassett who were on top.
They had the chance to take the lead on 51 minutes too when Tony Joyce swung in a cross from deep, which Lincoln met at the far post only for Richard Thomas to awkwardly tip over.
However, the game turned decisively around the hour mark as Bassett twice served up gifts to the hosts when looking to play out from the back.
First, Hamblett seized on an Iggy Illot pass intended for Lincoln. Racing down the right side, he swung in a cross which Gabriel, playing with his back to goal, expertly hooked into the top left corner.
Four minutes later, Bassett again opted not to clear their lines. This time Thompson was the beneficiary, and he cut inside before thrashing a low twenty-yard drive into the bottom corner.
Lydney began asserting themselves and continued to be ever-dangerous from set pieces, with an unmarked Thompson somehow failing to find the target when he met a Morgan free kick delivery.
Ultimately their fifth would arrive from open play. Patient play in the left corner eventually opened up room for substitute Pete Macklin to cross, and he picked out the deadly Gabriel, who headed home at the far post for his hat-trick.
Ten minutes remained for Bassett to try and launch another unlikely comeback. Try as they might, they failed to pull it off.
They got one back with six minutes to go when Wrona collected a square pass from Lincoln on the edge of the area and thumped an effort that Thomas was unable to keep out.
A couple of minutes later the visitors should have had the chance to cut the deficit back down to one when Bohane was clearly hauled down in the box. Despite taking place directly in front of him, the referee was unmoved, with his perfectly placed assistant also unwilling to correct an error that was clear for all to see.
With time running out, you can only speculate what would have transpired had Bassett played out the dying stages trailing just by a single goal (assuming the penalty had been scored).
As Bassett have experienced plenty of times before though, being left to ask "if only" at full time is a sure sign of a painful, frustrating, agonising defeat.
Man of the match: Gio Wrona – provided the assist for Bassett's first with a fine free kick delivery and scored to offer a glimmer of hope towards the end. He also put in an excellent shift in the heart of midfield, particularly after his team had been reduced to ten men and the reshuffle of the formation more or less left him alone in the middle of the park.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Tuesday 4th September 2018 at 23:25
TJ Bohane, Josh Shama, Gio Wrona