Sam Ockwell (2)
It's a rare thing in football that everything comes together on the pitch just as planned. But on a gorgeous September afternoon, it did so for Royal Wootton Bassett Town, whose faultless display delivered a stunning 2-1 upset win away against Didcot Town in the Preliminary round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Across the entire pitch Sam Collier's side were superb, bettering their Southern League Division One Central opponents from the first whistle to the last. Indeed, it would have been cruel had the result been any different. In the end though, Bassett deservedly booked a place in the First Qualifying round for only the fourth time in the club's history courtesy of Sam Ockwell's brace.
They did so with one of the finest performances Bassett have ever produced in the competition, and one that will stick long in the memory.
Bassett were sharp from the off, applying plenty of early pressure that eventually saw them take a sixth minute lead.
They could have been ahead earlier than that too, with Jack Stirland's glancing header being held by Leigh Bedwell following a dangerous cross from debutant Trevor Mutero.
When the goal arrived, it came in style. TJ Bohane, playing alone up front, drew a foul from Joe Green on the edge of the area and Ockwell curled a beauty of a free kick that flew beyond Bedwell into the bottom right corner.
Playing with confidence, Mutero then narrowly missed the target, dragging wide after he had deftly controlled a crossfield pass and cut inside right back Taylor Bedwell.
Didcot did soon equalise, but it was in rather fortuitous circumstances. From a free kick pumped into the box, Green's back post header took an awkward bounce that meant Bassett 'keeper Harrison Ellis was just unable to claw the ball away. The loose ball then fell for Seth Humphries who nodded in from six yards out.
Playing against higher level opponents, Bassett would perhaps have been forgiven if that equaliser dented their confidence. But the visitors remained the better side as Kai Robinson and Bohane forced Bedwell to make a pair of saves – albeit relatively routine ones – before the break.
That continued after the restart too, Ockwell having an early opportunity when his header from Alex Dinsmore's cross was held on the dive.
Didcot then had a rare opening when a heavy touch from Dinsmore opened up space for Jordan Thomas, but the winger shot wide of the left post after cutting inside from his position on the right wing.
The hosts were unable to create much throughout the game though – something that Bassett's dogged pressing, which began with the selfless Bohane up front and was aided by tireless performances from Robinson and Gio Wrona in their advanced roles in the centre of midfield, contributed heavily towards.
The pressure applied also influenced an erratic, nervous performance from the Didcot defence. On the back foot for long periods, the Railwaymen's back four were forced into conceding numerous corners.
And it was from such a set piece just before the hour that Bassett restored their lead as an unmarked Ockwell guided home Wrona's delivery from twelve yards.
Didcot had no real answer to that. In fact, it was Bassett who appeared likelier to contribute another goal, with an oustretched Jack Stirland almost adding a third as he found the side netting from a low Dinsmore cross.
With thirteen minutes to go, Didcot did get another opportunity when substitute Jimmy Deabill set the ball to Connor Ferguson, but his low drive from a tight angle was blocked by the feet of Ellis.
The hosts lacked any form of other inspiration though. They were forced to rely on Bassett to provide their final chance of the game too as Matt Berry-Hargreaves conceded a free kick in the left corner for an unnecessary push on Brett Gardner.
But while Harley Giles' free kick was not immediately dealt with, it was soon enough hacked away as Bassett rightly claimed an FA Cup scalp.
Man of the Match: Sam Ockwell – it feels harsh to have to pick one player to receive this award as, from one to eleven, Bassett were superb. However, for his two goals – the first a stunning free kick, flawless defensive display and the numerous pinpoint passes that helped initiate attacks and caused Didcot no end of problems, Ockwell gets the nod.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Sunday 13th September 2020 at 13:28