Bailey Gallagher, Sam Packer
Royal Wootton Bassett Town may not have been at their best. But they did just enough to squeeze past Elburton Villa with a 2-1 victory in the Isuzu FA Vase first round.
The win means Bassett have now advanced to at least the second round of the national competition in four consecutive seasons. But Sam Collier's side advanced the hard way, coming from behind, while relying on a stoic defensive effort to ensure their combative opponents were unable to get back on terms despite a sterling effort.
Bassett certainly weren't at their best in a tougher than anticipated fixture. In particular, Collier's side lacked any real conviction going forward throughout the duration of the match.
However, two goals in the space of two minutes early in the second half proved decisive as Bailey Gallagher's delightful back heel and Sam Packer's poacher's finish ensured Bassett found a way through. And now they are just one win away from a third successive trip to the third round.
Bassett will certainly need to up their game if they are to advance much further in a competition that in recent seasons has brought a decent amount of success.
Indeed, on paper this was a first round tie that perhaps should not have posed as many problems as it did. Villa may have been unbeaten in their previous six games. However, on paper Bassett were favourites against opponents plying their trade at step six in the South West Peninsula League Premier East.
As it turned out, they needed to dig deep and win ugly to secure passage to the next round.
It certainly didn't help that during an evenly contested opening period, Bassett's best attacking threat came from the right back position with youngster Jowan Partridge creating his team's best two chances.
In the opening five minutes he intercepted an errant pass before riding a pair of challenges as he drove towards goal only to see his tight angled shot from fifteen yards batted away by visiting 'keeper Jason Peters.
It would take until the half hour mark before Peters was properly called into action again. And once more it was Partridge who tested the Villa shotstopper. This time he struck from range, with Peters forced to get low to divert around the post with a fingertip save.
That chance came just moments after Bassett's first real wake up call when debutant Rob Brown was forced to parry behind from Lewis Edwards after the unmarked visitors' captain had been slipped in by Dan Tate.
Tate soon enough put Villa ahead . Bassett were unable to clear their lines and the ball fell to Sam Hughes goalside of his marker. Brown was quick off his line to parry the powerful centre forward's effort at point blank range. However, the loose ball fell to Tate who made no mistake.
On the balance of play it was arguably a deserved lead for the visitors. Neat enough in possession, Villa benefited from Hughes' physical presence in the final third, which asked plenty of questions of centre back pairing Dave Bampton and Adam Corcoran. Meanwhile, his teammates' pressing offered little space for Bassett when the home side sought to build an attack.
A slow start to the second half proved Villa's undoing though.
Within four minutes of the restart, Bassett were level. Gallagher started an ended the move. After switching play out to Alfie Presley on the right wing, he ghosted into the box unnoticed and met Presley's low delivery with a sublime back heel finish at the near post to get his team back on terms.
Sixty seconds later Bassett were ahead. Intercepting an attempted clearance just inside the Villa half, Gio Wrona fed Gallagher whose precise through ball set Connor Waldon free in the left channel. And his low cutback was met by Packer, who got to the ball at the near post just ahead of centre half Dan Vile and bundled home from close range.
Bassett could well have had a third too following neat interplay between Waldon and Presley, but Gallagher's header from Waldon's cross was blocked.
A third goal was certainly something that Bassett needed, particularly as Villa posed the bigger threat going forward for the remainder of the game. And at times, Bassett were forced into relying on some backs to the walls defending.
Just before the hour a Jack Lee cross was cleared only as far as Joe Eke, who dragged narrowly wide of the left post from twenty yards out.
Quarter of an hour later, a last ditch Partridge tackle denied Reece Brown after he had been set free in the right channel by Ollie Newton, before substitute Zak Robinson did well to block Cam Dymond's shot after the winger weaved his way into the box.
Bassett were then dealt a numerical advantage that should, in theory, have given them enough breathing room to see out the match. With seven minutes - plus injury time - left to play, Villa captain Edwards received a straight red card for kicking out at Jack Hobson-McVeigh after being on the end of a heavy challenge.
However, Villa continued to push on and apply a significant amount of pressure to the hosts. Yet, forced to dig deep, the Bassett defence held firm - including successfully seeing off four corners in quick succession during stoppage time.
The full time whistle was therefore met with some relief. Bassett knew they had been in a battle - but at least they're still in the hat.
Player of the Match: Dave Bampton - the defender faced a tough task in dealing with the physical presence of Sam Hughes and the clever play of his strike partner Dan Tate. However, the veteran was at his best, making a number of last ditch tackles and headers while, in typical fashion, putting his body on the line. This was a day when Bassett needed their defence to be at their best, and - with Bampton - leading the way, they were.
Credit: Stuart Smedley
Last modified on Sunday 22nd October 2023 at 11:41
Bailey Gallagher, Sam Packer