Royal Wootton Bassett Town fell to a 2-1 home defeat against Wantage Town as the visitors scored twice in the second half against ten men to overturn a 1-0 half time deficit.
For the second time this season, Royal Wootton Bassett Town took the lead against Wantage Town, only to see the Alfredians claim the points as Bassett failed to finish the fixture with their full contingent of eleven players on the pitch.
However, whereas the wounds were self-inflicted in their 3-2 loss in Oxfordshire when they were reduced to nine men, on this occasion Bassett were the victims of a controversial decision to send Matt Bennett off on the stroke of half time.
After attempting to latch onto a Brad Pagliaroli pass, Bennett started to slow as he realised he would be unable to beat Wantage 'keeper Curtis Meare to the ball. At that moment, however, the forward slipped on the slick surface and his momentum carried him into the 'keeper, who had gone to ground.
It was clearly an unfortunate, accidental coming together. Bizarrely though, referee Oliver Cross felt otherwise and immediately brandished a straight red card.
The man in the middle had already drew Bassett's ire for an inconsistent showing throughout the first half. He had earlier booked TJ Bohane for a firm challenge, despite letting Kaylem Patterson off scot-free for a foul of similar strength minute before. Carl Evans was also cautioned for a soft, inadvertent foul.
Yet for all that frustration with the officials, Bassett manager Sam Collier would no doubt have been pleased about his side's solid first half display that had seen them take the lead.
There had been a pair of let-offs as Patterson twice wasted opportunities when presented with just Gary Aulsberry to beat. But on both occasions, the first coming when Ben Cook was allowed to run at the Bassett defence and the second after the forward had shown quick feet on the edge of the area to beat Mark James, Patterson shot straight at the 'keeper.
Aside from that though, Wantage appeared rather toothless in attack.
Chances were also at a premium at the other end. However, when one arrived on 28 minutes, Pagliaroli made no mistake. Josh Shama's perfectly timed tackle at the halfway line allowed Bassett to break, and the ball was worked quickly into the feet of Nick Stanley on the edge of the area. He then slipped a clever reverse pass to an overlapping Pagliaroli, and the forward bent an arcing shot into the top left corner that left Meare no chance.
The way the game had unfolded, Bassett would have been confident of defending that lead after half time. But Bennett's harsh dismissal made that task all the harder.
Forced into playing with just one-man up front, Bassett came under heavy pressure from the restart.
Wantage initially failed to make that pressure pay though as Aulsberry remained largely untroubled. The best the visitors could muster in the second half's early exchanges was when Steve Robertson steered a shot from an acute angle into the side netting.
Bassett's resistance was eventually broken on 66 minutes though. Left back Mark Flanagan steered in a cross from the left, which Aulsberry attempted to punch clear. Cook was on hand to pick up the pieces though, and steered the rebound in from fifteen yards with a composed finish.
Six minutes later the visitors were awarded a penalty, again in controversial fashion as Tony Joyce was harshly penalised for a handball when Patterson sought to tee himself up for a shot. Fortunately for the hosts, substitute Ryan Markham dragged his rushed spot kick wide of the left post.
Bassett then fashioned a chance for themselves. Stanley delivered a free kick from the left wing, which Jon Beeden connected with at the far post, but Mare was able to beat his header away at point blank range.
The game's decisive goal would arrive with eight minutes remaining. And it came from Steve Robertson - a source who has come to haunt his former club since departing for Wantage before the start of last season.
Scorer of five against Bassett in three meetings in 2017-18 and the winner in this season's reverse fixture in October, Robertson again found the net, guiding home Jack Dunmall's low ball after Connor Mattimore's bursting run down the left had opened up the home defence.
Man of the Match: Nick Stanley – the forward worked hard for the entire ninety minutes and continued to give Wantage something to think about in the second half even when operating up front on his own.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 19th January 2019 at 22:01