TJ Bohane, Kieran Diaz-Benitez
A pair of sendings off proved costly for Royal Wootton Bassett Town as they were defeated 3-2 by Wantage Town having led 2-0 early on.
The game may have ended in farcical circumstances as the full-time whistle was sounded a full four minutes early. But the story of Royal Wootton Bassett Town's 3-2 defeat away against Wantage Town was Bassett's loss of discipline, which cost them the game.
Sam Collier's team found themselves in a commanding position early on as stunning strikes from Kieran Diaz-Benitez and TJ Bohane gave them a 2-0 lead after just 22 minutes.
However, that was overturned as Bassett were reduced to nine men courtesy of red cards for Adam Corcoran and Kieran Diaz-Benitez. And, as doggedly as they may have defended, it was little surprise that they ultimately caved into the pressure Wantage put them under to lose by the odd goal in five.
While Bassett remain in the top half of the Hellenic League Premier Division, this was the latest instalment of a frustrating spell that has seen them throw away far too many points. Again, it was a situation entirely of their own making.
The turning point of the game would come five minutes before half time when Corcoran received his marching orders. Awaiting delivery of a free kick from a position deep in Wantage territory, he became embroiled in a tangle off the ball with Brad Cox and sent the home defender tumbling to the floor.
With his team two goals to the good away from home against one of the favourites for the title, it was inexcusable.
Callum Wright halved Wantage's arrears within a minute of the restart and proceeded to pin Bassett deep in their own half. The visitors defended doggedly though and resisted their opponents' advances well.
But their task was made even tougher just after the hour when Diaz-Benitez picked up a second yellow for a late tackle.
Playing two men short, Bassett soon conceded an equaliser â€“ albeit in unfortunate fashion. Wantage themselves were reduced to ten men with quarter of an remaining. But, with Bassett having been forced to shift to an ultra-defensive setup, there was only ever really going to be one winner. And that was the home side, who struck the decisive blow in the 81st minute through Steve Robertson.
Collier's team flew out the blocks, going ahead in the third minute. McCready's ball forward caught out centre half Cox, allowing the dangerous Josh Shama to pick up possession on the left and drive forward. After cutting inside, he squared to Diaz-Benitez who curled a wonderful left-footed effort into the top corner, leaving Curtis Meare no chance.
After McCready was alert to block a Robertson shot with his feet, Bassett came within inches of doubling their advantage after only nine minutes. However, latching onto Jon Beeden's ball over the top of the defence, Matt Bennett lifted his attempted lob over an onrushing Meare but the wrong side of the post.
That miss appeared to matter little though as Bohane fired Bassett two goals in front with a piledriver of a free kick from close to thirty yards that screamed its way into the top corner.
Wantage, just three days removed from an exhaustive, admirable effort that saw them take National League South Hungerford Town to penalties in an FA Cup replay, were on the rack.
And their afternoon appeared to go from bad to worse when McCready â€“ by a quirk of fate, Hungerford's hero during the shootout on Tuesday - extended himself brilliantly to tip Chris Jackson's low penalty onto the post following a push on Robertson.
But their route back into the game proved to be just around the corner. And it was one Bassett provided to them.
Corcoran's sending off came just moments after Diaz-Benitez had picked up his first caution too, as the defender slid in late with a heavy challenge on Mark Flanagan. That set the tone for a niggly final portion of the first half which saw further yellows dished out to Steve Yeardley for Bassett as well as Wright and Jack Dunmall for Wantage. Yet it was Bassett who lost their cool most.
They would be quickly punished after play resumed.
Using the additional space afforded to them well, Wantage worked the ball from right to left and Dunmall played a cutback to an unmarked Wright, whose slightly deflected low strike from the edge of the area found its way past McCready.
The Bassett stopper then made two fine saves to preserve his team's lead, batting away a Jim Glover header at the far post before blocking Dunmall's effort from close range.
It was all hands to the pumps for Bassett, though they did manage one counter from which Bennett surged forward before firing a firm strike at Meare from the edge of the box.
The visitors' task soon became that much harder when a heavy touch took the ball away from Diaz-Benitez and he was late sliding in on Glover. And within a matter of minutes Bassett's lead had vanished. Flanagan played a short corner to Dan Comer, who teased in a cross from the right wing, which Beeden got his head to, only to divert it into his own net.
Bassett did receive something of a lifeline when substitute Ryan Markham received a laughable red card for a trip on Gio Wrona that merited nothing more than a yellow (if that).
Yet, with Wantage having made virtually all the second half running, shifting from a defensive outlook to an attacking one was always going to be hard for Bassett.
Another McCready save, this time tipping over from an unmarked Kaylem Patterson, preserved parity before Robertson blasted into the side netting from an angle.
But a winner had long appeared on the cards, and it duly arrived when Robertson received a pass inside from Flanagan on the left, turned on a sixpence and arrowed a strike into the top right corner.
There should still have been nine minutes left to play, but only five of those would be completed before a premature end to the game was called. Yet it is questionable as to whether Collier's side would have been able to make anything of them.
Either way, Bassett had been the instigators of their own demise, and the blame for passing up an outstanding opportunity to claim what would have been three significant points is theirs and theirs alone.
Man of the Match: Charlie McCready â€“ for the second time in a week, the talented young 'keeper served to frustrate Wantage, pulling off a superb penalty save in the opening period. He made a handful of other fine stops too, but in the end was powerless to keep out the Alfredians' three second half goals.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 6th October 2018 at 22:20
TJ Bohane, Kieran Diaz-Benitez