Royal Wootton Bassett Town and Fairford Town shared the spoils in an action-packed derby encounter at Cinder Lane. However, Sam Collier's side will have been a little frustrated not to have taken all three points as Tommy Ouldridge's opener was cancelled out by an 88th minute Dan Bailey strike.
A draw was arguably a fair result though, with both sides demonstrating enough quality to suggest that can compete at the top end of the Hellenic League Premier Division this season. Both teams sought to play on the front foot, creating an entertaining spectacle for the neutral with chances created at all stages of the game.
Indeed, it was a big surprise that the teams went into the half time interval all square, with both guilty of failing to convert a number of excellent opportunities.
Goalscorer Bailey was at the heart of things for Fairford but squandered three gilt-edged chances, including the first of the game just five minutes in when he somehow failed to convert from ten yards out after a Nick Stanley free kick took a deflection and fell to the always dangerous midfielder.
Having survived that early let off, Bassett endeavoured to grab an early goal of their own. Alfie Presley, leading the line in the absence of TJ Bohane, forced Sam Ayres into a pair of smart parries from close range shots. A fizzing cross from Jack Stirland was then met at the far post by Ouldridge, but Ayres was equal to the winger's header.
At the other end, Bailey then spurned two chances in a matter of minutes, finding the bar as he shot on the turn from a Ross Langworthy delivery before placing a free header from John Watson's cross wide of the left post.
Stanley saw an awkward free kick scooped around the post by Harrison Ellis as Fairford enjoyed a spell on top.
But the pendulum swung again with Bassett the more threatening in the final quarter hour before the break. Gio Wrona and Alex Dinsmore opened up the home defence with a neat move down the left side only for Kai Robinson to slice wide from a promising position. Then, after Langworthy was denied by the feet of Ellis after finding himself clean through on goal, Stirland dragged wide from twelve yards after Fairford proved unable to deal with a high ball into the box.
Despite the second period proving to be a much cagier affair, the half time interval was perhaps what both teams needed as their profligacy in front of goal was replaced by a more clinical edge following the restart.
It was the visitors who struck first. George Ford's pass inside from the right was deflected into the path of Ouldridge and, with little time to steady himself, he produced a smart first time shot that sailed over Ayres and into the top left corner.
Half chances for Danny Gudger and Langworthy followed, but as time wore on it appeared as though Bassett were going to be able to cling on for victory.
But with two minutes remaining, the visitors failed to clear their lines and the ball fell for Bailey, who produced a sublime low drive from 25 yards that whistled its way into the bottom left corner. It was a much more difficult opportunity than those he had missed in the opening half. But Bassett know from his days in blue and yellow that he is a player more than capable of producing an outstanding finish out of nothing – and it was to be such a strike that denied them victory on this occasion.
That was not the last action of the game though.
Two minutes later, Sam Ockwell's long ball caught the Fairford defence on their heels and good link up play from Mark Francis and Ouldridge stretched them further. After working his way into the box, Ouldridge then squared to an unmarked Robinson but a heavy first touch made the angle more difficult and his eventual shot was comfortably parried by Ayres. Bassett then had to survive a late scare as Christian Turner-Williams headed narrowly over from a Langworthy cross.
Both teams would have felt like they could have triumphed, but it was ultimately honours even in an entertaining derby.
Man of the Match: George Ford – took full advantage of his starting berth having had to bide his time on the bench in recent weeks. The young right back kept the lively Ben Lodge under wraps and also contributed going forwards, playing a key part in the build-up to Bassett's goal.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Saturday 26th September 2020 at 19:02