Dad’s Army fight back to deliver deserved point
Saturday 29 December 2018 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 29 December 2018 at 20:46)
Fielding a side whose average age was well into the thirties, TJ Bohane's stoppage time equaliser earned Royal Wootton Bassett Town a deserved point as they drew 3-3 with Flackwell Heath.
Wilks Park, 29th December 2018
Fielding a starting eleven that contained just three players aged younger than thirty, Flackwell Heath and their contingent of speedy attacking players were arguably not the side Sam Collier wanted his Royal Wootton Bassett Town team to be facing.
But thanks to an outstanding team performance from his assembled old guard, Bassett were able to claim a point in a dramatic 3-3 draw thanks to TJ Bohane's stoppage time equaliser.
A point was the least that they deserved too.
Despite conceding three goals, the visitors defended diligently, ceding few chances until home boss Marcus Richardson introduced Adam Thomas and Sodike Anyadike-Thompson to the fray and went with three men in attack. In midfield, Bassett's makeshift trio of Bohane, Nick Stanley and Gio Wrona battled throughout and, for a large part of the game, controlled proceedings. Meanwhile, up front the manager and Glenn Armstrong stood out with their selfless hold-up play and Flackwell found Matt Bennett's pace hard to contain.
It was a superb all-round team performance, with the result ensuring the tired legs and sore joints come full time (which will no doubt linger for the next day or two for many in the side) were not in vain.
Bassett's desire was obvious from the first whistle as they arguably made the better start. It was Bennett's raw speed that created the first chance of the game too when he burst down the right side, his low delivery deflecting into the path of Collier whose shot was blocked.
A brief scare was survived when Josh Baines' towering free kick was struck over by an unmarked Josh Samuels at the left post. But that would be the last time Flackwell would threaten until they were gifted their first equaliser.
In the meantime, Bassett went ahead with a well-worked goal and looked more than good value for their lead.
The goal arrived on 21 minutes. Armstrong received a ball in from right back Tony Joyce on the edge of the area and rolled a clever reverse pass through to Stanley, who arrowed a precise, low effort into the bottom right corner.
Ten minutes later, Armstrong came close to doubling the lead, steering wide from eighteen yards after Joyce picked him out with another pinpoint pass.
But, just as the visitors appeared to be headed into half time a goal to the good, one ball over the top did for them in the 43rd minute.
Playing in a deeper role than accustomed to at left back, Mani Roper was caught in two minds as to whether challenge for 'keeper Aaron Watkins' clearance. And, after failing to connect with a header, that left Samuels a free run at goal and he eventually picked out the bottom corner after cutting inside Steve Yeardley, who was attempting a last-ditch tackle.
There was one last opportunity before the interval. And it almost ended in Bennett restoring Bassett's advantage, but he fired narrowly over following a Collier set back.
The flying forward would more than make up for passing up that opportunity just thirty seconds after the restart though. After Wrona swung in a sublime cross from the left wing, Collier feigned a clever dummy to freeze centre half Josh Edwards. And that allowed the ball to drop perfectly for an unmarked Bennett, and he thrashed an unstoppable half volley beyond Watkins.
Going behind for a second time forced Flackwell into a rethink. And the double substitution, introducing Anyadike-Thompson and Thomas, eventually proved an inspired choice, their fresh, fast-twitching legs proving problematic for a Bassett side whose legs tired all over the pitch.
Its impact was not immediate, however, the best opening Flackwell fashioned in the opening stages of the second period coming when Leius Sinclair's long range drive forced a parry from Kevin Sawyer.
Two gilt-edged chances fell Bennett's way as Bassett came close to extending their lead. On the hour, Stanley jumped on an underhit pass and threaded a through ball to the forward, who snatched at a shot taken too early. An acrobatic twelve-yard effort from Stanley's hooked cross then deflected narrowly over.
Ultimately though, the game became stretched and that played into the hosts' favour. Bassett thought they had survived a scare in the 68th minute when Sawyer produced an outstanding stop to claw a Thomas shot from a matter of yards around the post before Yeardley cleared off the line from Anyadike-Thompson after the resulting corner was not cleared.
But within a couple of minutes Flackwell had the ball in the net, their second equaliser coming in some style. James Mansfield passed into the feet of Thomas, who, with his back to goal and from a tight angle, flicked the ball up before guiding a controlled overhead kick into the opposite corner.
Both teams subsequently spurned one-on-one opportunities created by long punts forward from the two respective 'keepers. Sinclair blazed over for Flackwell after outpacing the Bassett defence before Bennett was denied by a brilliant diving save from Watkins when he had burst through.
But, with time winding down, Flackwell scored what they thought would be the winner. Thomas had been denied moments earlier by a superb saving tackle from Jon Beeden. But from the corner that followed, he guided a low header in at the near post.
Desperate to salvage something from the game, Bassett threw everything forward. Stanley steered a free kick into the hands of Watkins, Bohane saw a snap shot from twelve yards blocked following good work on the edge of the box from Wrona and Yeardley, before Sawyer came forward for a last minute corner.
Yet the ball just wouldn't find a way in.
That was until Armstrong controlled Roper's clipped ball in the left channel and set Bohane loose with a neat backheel. And the prolific forward made no mistake, keeping his composure to slot in beneath Watkins and claim a fantastic, hard-fought point in the most dramatic fashion.
The thirty-plus contingent will probably feel the effects of this one for the next few days. But those aches and pains will certainly be worth it following a terrific effort.
Man of the match: Jon Beeden – one of Bassett's youngest players on the pitch at age 27, Beeden was a towering presence at centre back, winning everything in the air and helping keep Flackwell's fleet-of-foot forwards largely in check.