Brad back with a bang as Bassett do the double over Levens
Saturday 11 January 2020 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 12 January 2020 at 14:53)
Brad Pagliaroli's 89th minute winner delivered Royal Wootton Bassett Town all three points as they defeated Longlevens 2-1.
Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, 11th January 2020
Brad Pagliaroli returned from suspension in fine style, coming off the bench to score an 89th minute winner as Royal Wootton Bassett Town completed the season double over Longlevens with a dramatic 2-1 triumph.
On an afternoon in which both teams performed admirably well despite a fierce wind doing its best to blight proceedings, the game appeared destined for a draw after Brad Martin's poacher's finish had cancelled out Dan Warre's well-worked opener.
But a stunning cross-field pass from Alfie Presley and outstanding first touch and finish from Pagliaroli ensured three points would be Bassett's, lifting Sam Collier's team above Longlevens and into twelfth place in the Hellenic League Premier Division.
The clinching goal was more than worth the wait, patience having been a key aspect of Bassett's performance from the first whistle. Playing into the wind during the opening period, they knew that the focus during the first half would likely be on defence. And they performed those duties robustly, limiting the chances the visitors were able to create despite the conditions being in their favour.
Save for Ryan Dunn's fourth minute opportunity in which the right back cut inside and weaved his way around two attempted challenges before dragging wide, it took Longlevens time before they were able to generate real pressure.
And by the time Brad Martin and Harry Emmett narrowly missed the target within a minute of each other, they were lucky not to have been behind after what appeared to be a clear penalty was notice given for Shaun O'Connor's push on Mark Francis.
Two further chances before the break then fell Bassett's way. Gio Wrona's low ball into the box proved just out of reach of a perfectly placed Landon Golding, the forward's attempt to control with an outstretched leg taking the ball out of play. Carl Evans then hooked over with his back to goal after Wrona's free kick delivery had held up into the wind and fell to the defender.
Going into the break with the score still 0-0 put the hosts in a position they would no doubt have been happy with given they were to play with the wind behind them for the second half.
And Bassett duly got off to the best possible start when play resumed. Presley jumped on a loose pass inside Longlevens territory before working the ball forwards to Warre on the left touchline. The youngster then cut inside before playing a fine one-two with Kair Robinson on the edge of the area which opened up the visitors' defence and Warre produced a confident, composed finish to slot beyond Ash Wintle for his second goal in three games.
The goal initially buoyed Bassett, Francis forcing a save from Wintle with a shot from the edge of the area that stung the 'keeper's palms.
But the hosts then tailed off, the enforced substitution of Evans seeming to disrupt their organisation at the back as his replacement at centre half Aaron Oakley sought to get himself into the game.
The midfield began to lose their grip on proceedings too. And it was their failure to close down O'Connor as he stepped out from inside his own half that should have seen Longlevens pull level on 67 minutes. After breeching the midfield, he picked out an unmarked Elliott Martin on the right and his square ball into the box found an equally free Dave Merrick directly in front of goal. However, the substitute's shot was diverted wide by debutant 'keeper Ellis Parker saving well with his legs.
The resulting corner produced the equaliser though. Bassett failed to clear, allowing O'Connor to recycle the ball to Ed Smyllie on the left. He delivered a cross which Parker, in a crowd of players, spilled and Martin was on hand to prod home from close range.
Plenty of time still remained, and both teams created chances. A firm block from Dunn prevented Caine Bradbury from restoring Bassett's lead after the midfielder's incisive run and clever give-and-go with Golding. The resulting corner, swung in by Pagliaroli, then hit the post before being scrambled away. Meanwhile, at the other end Martin controlled a hanging cross from the left before setting the ball to Emmett who could only skew wide.
Pagliaroli would have the last say though. Presley's switch of play was sublime, isolating left back James Barnett who was left to his own devices to defend against Pagliaroli.
It was still an awfully tough ball for Pagliaroli to bring under control though, especially given the wind. However, the ball stuck to Pagliaroli's first touch, he then darted towards the edge of the box where he cut inside Barnett and fired a low drive towards the bottom corner at the near post which Wintle was unable to get down to cover.
Victory was Bassett's courtesy of that late magic – what a way it was for Pagliaroli to mark his return after a month stewing on the sidelines.
Man of the Match: Alfie Presley – played an important part in both Bassett's goals, his interception initiating the move for the first and his superb switch of play setting up Pagliaroli to deliver the decisive blow. The left back was diligent in his defensive duties too and linked up well with the midfield when Bassett were going forward.