Super Sawyer helps preserve point

Friday 07 December 2018 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 08 December 2018 at 00:37)

Royal Wootton Bassett Town and Brimscombe and Thrupp played out a 1-1 draw in an edgy Friday night encounter at the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground.

Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, 7th December 2018

Royal Wootton Bassett Town were indebted to the heroics of veteran 'keeper Kevin Sawyer as they held Brimscombe and Thrupp to a 1-1 draw in a gritty Friday night encounter at the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground.

What the contest lacked in quality, it made up for in drama, particularly in a first half that the visitors dominated. Yet, Brimscombe were only able to establish a 1-0 advantage, the performance of Sawyer being the key reason why as he saved a penalty and pulled off two further quality saves.

It was a game full of controversy too, as Brimscombe felt that their tormentor should not even have been on the pitch after his angry reaction to the decision to award the Lilywhites their first penalty.

However, it was clear – not least from the reaction of the Brimscombe forward – that Ollie Pitt had taken an obvious, calculated dive when seeking to latch onto Harrison Reeves' defence splitting through ball. The referee had been duped though and deemed that Sawyer had brought Pitt down before producing a yellow card for the 'keeper in light of his lengthy, angry – and fully justified - protest.

He restored a sufficient degree of calm before brilliantly repelling Ash Caldwell's effort from the spot though, ensuring that parity was preserved.

Brimscombe could well have already been ahead, but Pitt had struck the post after beating the offside trap on eleven minutes while the resulting corner eventually led to Sam Blackie heading over while unmarked from just ten yards.

Even after the missed spot kick, Brimscombe remained on top, with the home defence unable to contain the superb movement of Blackie and Pitt (even though it is difficult to praise the latter given his shameful histrionics).

On 37 minutes, Pitt whipped in a free kick from the left edge of the box that Sawyer did well to tip around the near post. After his defence failed to clear the subsequent corner, a low cross was swung into the box that Blackie swept towards goal, only to see his effort parried to safety.

Yet Brimscombe eventually found themselves a goal to the good going into the interval. And their lead came virtue of a penalty after Blackie was scythed down by Steve Yeardley just inside the penalty area. This time Caldwell just had enough on his spot kick to beat Sawyer, even though the 'keeper did guess correctly, as he picked out the bottom left corner.

For all their dominance of the first half, however, Brimscombe emerged rather muted after the restart.

Admittedly, they weren't ceding chances to the home side. But they appeared to suffer from a degree of complacency that ultimately proved the difference between them taking all three points back to Gloucestershire and just the single point that they ended up earning.

And Bassett took full advantage, equalising with twenty-five minutes remaining. The visitors were unable to successfully clear from a free kick, and Brad Pagliaroli was able to slip a pass to Gio Wrona in the left corner. From there, Wrona floated in a left-footed cross that Brimscombe 'keeper Ash Gale sought to come for. He was nowhere close to beating TJ Bohane to the ball though, and the Bassett forward, rising highest, flicked in a deft header.

That seemed to rattle Brimscombe, and the game's closing stages were rather ugly with both teams racking up cautions.

There were the odd moments when a further goal appeared possible.

With eleven minutes remaining, Reeves whipped in a cross from the right that deflected off Carl Evans and dropped for an unmarked Pitt, who headed over. Reeves was then denied by the feet of Sawyer after Pitt's clever set back from a low Jake Parrott delivery.

But it was to be Bassett who had the best chance to snatch victory. In the final minute, great hold up play from Mani Roper eventually resulted in Pagliaroli slipping through a pass for Matt Bennett, who seemingly had just Gale to beat. But the forward dwelled on the ball for a half second too long before pulling the trigger, allowing time for his tight-angled effort to be blocked.

Neither side was therefore able to claim a victory. And the result arguably did little to help either team. That frustration potentially was the root of some of the disappointing scenes that followed the final whistle.

But, if anything, the hosts will feel this was a point earned, compared to Brimscombe who will no doubt believe it was a case of two points dropped. And it was Sawyer's fantastic glovework that proved vital.

Man of the match: Kevin Sawyer – the veteran 'keeper produced four vital saves during the game, not least the brilliant stop that he made from the first penalty awarded to Brimscombe.

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