First half misery condemns Bassett to heavy defeat

Saturday 02 November 2019 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 02 November 2019 at 19:17)

A dismal first half display saw Royal Wootton Bassett Town 4-1 down at the break against Brackley Town Saints. And, despite a much improved performance following the restart, they fell to a heavy 5-2 loss.

Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, 2nd November 2019

A spirited, much improved second half display may have allowed Royal Wootton Bassett Town to emerge with a smidgen of pride still intact from their home defeat against Brackley Town Saints. However, a miserable performance in the opening period meant they were on the receiving end of a heavy 5-2 loss that keeps Sam Collier's side mired in the bottom three of the Hellenic League Premier Division.

Two soft goals conceded from corners, a deflected free kick and a well-worked move that easily carved open the hosts' defence saw Bassett enter the half time interval 4-1 down against a Saints side who, although neat and tidy as usual, were certainly not as strong as the team who came close to landing the title in 2018-19.

And although Bassett matched - and arguably bettered - their opponents following the restart, the damage done in the opening 45 minutes proved fatal for their chances of getting anything from the game.

Collier's side were a goal behind after just four minutes as Ollie Goddard lost his marker and steered in Harry Brock's hanging corner.

The visitors' lead barely lasted five minutes though, Carl Evans beating Saints 'keeper Matt Crowther to the ball to head in from Caine Bradbury's free kick delivery.

Åfter that equaliser Bassett appeared to be in the ascendancy. Brad Pagliaroli blazed narrowly over from a tight angle before dragging inches wide of the left post with a right-footed shot after Wayne Turk's interception in the middle of the park.

However, after failing to translate that brief spell into anything positive, midway through the half Bassett found themselves behind again. It was a rather unfortunate goal to concede, Dean March's free kick deflecting off the wall and leaving a wrong-footed Declan Lehmann no chance to keep the ball out.

The response from Bassett was pitiful – and they quickly folded.

2-1 became 3-1 when another Brock corner was flicked on at the near post by an unmarked March and fell at the feet of a wide-open Sam Hartley at the far post to guide home.

Then, after Alex Stott had twice spurned opportunities when through on goal, dangerous teammate James Hammond showed the forward how it was done, latching onto his partner's through ball before lifting a deft chip over a stranded Lehmann.

Whatever strong words were said in the Bassett dressing room at half time, they had an immediate effect.

Bassett pulled a goal back within two minutes of the restart. Pagliaroli and Gio Wrona played a short corner and the latter delivered a cross from the right to the far post, which Evans headed in for his second of the game.

Minutes later, substitute TJ Bohane, whose introduction made a positive impact, came close, forcing a Crowther save with his header from an Alfie Presley cross.

In contrast to Bassett, Brackley had started the second period somewhat nervously. But they soon settled and twice came close to re-establishing a three-goal advantage. First, Jordan Godfrey's deep left-wing cross caught the wind and Lehmann was forced to smartly redirect himself in order to tip wide. Lehmann then guided Goddard's rising first-time effort from the edge of the area over the bar.

Bassett continued to ask questions at the other end, Bohane seeing a low free kick parried by Crowther with the 'keeper doing well to get his body in the way of Matt Bennett's rebound shot. A rash decision to come off his line then presented Callum Parsons with a half chance to steer a shot in from the left side, but his attempt was headed away.

With nine minutes to go, Bassett had the ball in the back of the net, Bennett brilliantly adjusting his body to hooks in from Parsons' clever reverse pass. However, a questionable offside decision ruled it out.

There were no doubts over Brackley's goal at the other end with four minutes remaining. Catching Bassett on the break, Stott's switched play from right to left, picking out Hammond, who stepped inside Aaron Oakley before coolly slotting away.

That was game over. Yet Parsons, Pagliaroli and Bohane all came close to grabbing what would, at this point, have been consolation goals in the dying minutes of the game.

If any spectators had only observed the second half, they'd have been forgiven for thinking it was Bassett who were on top. But that had followed a pitiful opening 45 minutes in which the hosts seemed devoid of any fight once they found themselves behind for a second time.

Man of the match: Gio Wrona – the central midfielder demonstrated fight and willing throughout the entire game and in doing so was an example to his teammates of how they should have approached the game. Wrona also set up Evans' second with a fine cross.

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