Defence make their case in complete performance
Saturday 07 December 2019 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 08 December 2019 at 15:18)
Royal Wootton Bassett Town won a third consecutive league game as they defeated Reading City 2-0.
Rivermoor, 7th December 2019
Stingy in defence, sensible in possession and clinical when it mattered most in front of goal, Royal Wootton Bassett Town's performance in their 2-0 triumph away against Reading City was arguably their most complete of the season so far.
Victory was ultimately earned by two goals in a five minute second half spell as Charlie McCuish seized on a defensive error before Brad Pagliaroli struck a trademark left-footed drive into the bottom corner.
Those goals sealed a deserved three points in a game which saw 'keeper Declan Lehmann - a busy man for much of the season so far - fail to have to record a single save.
And that was thanks to a rock solid defensive display. Only once in the game did the Bassett back four in any way get exposed, and that was in the second minute when the ball was switched to Ben Lambourne on the left wing and his dangerous cross fizzed across the six yard box, just out of the reach of Fergus Burton and Samuel Bell.
After that scare, Bassett did not look like conceding for the remainder of the afternoon.
At the other end, the visitors had chances before the break.
Pagliaroli curled over with his weaker right foot on twenty minutes before TJ Bohane flicked his cross on for Mark Francis, whose firm snap shot was well held by Charlie York.
Then on the half hour mark, Bohane had York beaten with a curling free kick from just outside the box only to see his effort go inches wide of the post.
Although a tight contest, Bassett continued to be the only side capable of creating chances after the restart.
Caine Bradbury went close with a free kick before Pagliaroli struck straight at York from outside the box.
The best chance of the game so far then fell to Bohane, whose glancing header from a Pagliaroli delivery was brilliantly Palmer away by York low to the 'keeper's left.
Eventually Bassett's pressure paid off, though their opener was a huge gift from the hosts.
Reading defender Michael Butcher, who had a second half to forget, attempted a header back to York that fell straight into the lap of Charlie McCuish. The young forward, brought on as a first half substitute after an injury to Francis, had a free run at goal, rounded York and steered in from an angle to open his first team account.
Pagliaroli almost doubled Bassett's lead three minutes later, but York was able to steer his effort around the post after a precise Gio Wrona through ball set the winger free.
There was little York could do moments later though. Taking control on the edge of the area, Pagliaroli weaved his way past right back Marco de Sousa before firing low into the bottom corner from a tight angle.
While 2-0 in front there was still plenty of time for Reading to mount a comeback - and they must have fancied their chances against a Bassett defence that has shipped a number of goals so far this season.
But centre halves Aaron Oakley and Carl Evans were in commanding form, while young full backs George Ford and Alfie Presley dealt calmly with any threat, neither seeming to lose a tackle or get beaten.
And that allowed Bassett to continue to attack their hosts.
They were denied a third when Butcher cynically brought down the tireless Kai Robinson just outside the box as the Bassett midfielder raced towards goal. The Citizens' centre back was lucky to escape with just a yellow card from that, though he earned a second caution in injury time for a foul on Wrona.
While it may not have been the prettiest display, Sam Collier's side showed grit and determination throughout to record their third Hellenic League Premier Division win in a row and, importantly, climb two places to 15th in the table. A crucial test awaits next week away against Virginia Water - with that game presenting another opportunity to edge closer towards the mid-table positions.
Man of the Match: George Ford - since making his debut last month, the youngster - a product of Bassett's youth section - has played without fault or fear at full back. He was excellent again at Reading, producing a mature display in which he - alongside left back Alfie Presley - kept the home side's wingers firmly in check.