2nd November 2019
Hellenic League Premier Division
Royal Wootton Bassett (2) Brackley Town Saints (5)
SAINTS: – Crowther, Middleton (D), Brock, March, Goddard, Hartley, Godfrey, Hammond, Stott, McConnell, Middleton (L).
SUBS NOT USED – Dowse
A thoroughly entertaining game given the conditions. It didn’t just rain it was absolutely lashing down for the whole 90 minutes. It was a huge credit to the RWB facilities, and particularly the pitch that the game could go ahead. Due to several absences as a result of work commitments, injuries, suspensions etc. manager Chris Hurley was required to shuffle his pack and introduced a couple of the under 18 squad to the starting line-up. They didn’t let him down. Saints were generally dominant in possession and very pleasing to the eye, however Bassett certainly had their moments particularly in the first 25 minutes of the second-half when they really pushed hard, knocking against the Saints door on a regular basis.
Saints started brightly and in the second minute James Hammond played in Alex Stott whose goal bound effort was deflected wide. Harry Brock swung in the resulting corner, high and hanging, and Ollie Goddard arrived in the right place at the right time to stick out a long leg and direct the ball into the back of the Bassett net.
Saints lead was short lived lasting only for two minutes. A long free kick from Caine Bradbury was headed into an empty net by Carl Evans who headed the ball over Matt Crowther who had come to punch but misjudged his timings and was left in no man’s land.
Saints were on the back foot for the next 15 minutes, however, the team defended stoutly and restricted Bassett to long range and speculative efforts. On 21 minutes Hammond was fouled on the edge of the Bassett penalty box. Dean March struck the kick well which deflected off of the top of the Bassett wall, wrong footing Declan Lehmann in the Bassett goal, and found the top corner.
For the remaining 20 minutes of the half Saints were dominant and created numerous chances with their play through midfield neat, tidy and at pace. Bassett were finding this difficult to deal with and on 25 minutes Stott broke free and was only thwarted by a desperate last-minute block by Evans. A minute later Saints extended their lead from another set piece. This time Harry Brock’s corner was on a lower trajectory and with more pace. Dean March’s run to the near post wrongfooted the RWB defence leaving Sam Hartley to burst through at the far post to head into an empty net from 2 yards.
Saints continued to press and create chances. Stott was thwarted at the last minute by keeper Lehmann and an incisive move involving March, Goddard and Hammond lead to Stott breaking free just outside the Bassett penalty area. Stott’s chip was only just too high. Bassett were on the back foot but created a good opportunity on 42 minutes, but Dan Middleton was on hand with a fantastic block just inside the penalty area frustrate the lively Bradley Paglianoli.
Right on half-time Saints took a firm grip on the game. Hammond broke from the centre circle before feeding the ball into Alex Stott who cleverly held up the ball whilst Hammond continued his run. Stott timed his return pass perfectly and Hammond was able to burst through and delightfully chip over the advancing Lehmann.
At half-time the rain changed from absolutely lashing down to torrential.
Saints started the second half sluggishly and allowed Bassett to immediately grab a foothold in the game. It was clear that Bassett had been given a bit of a wake-up call by their management team as they started the second half strongly. Within two minutes of the restart they had pulled a goal back. A short corner routine saw Gio Wrona deliver a long high cross to the Saints back post where Carl Evans managed to get his head to the ball amongst a crowd of players and to direct it beyond flailing arms and legs into the bottom of the net.
Bassett raised their game and five minutes later TJ Bohan was on the end of another right wing cross but could only direct his free header straight at Crowther. Having weathered the storm (literally) Saints began to regain their composure to create a couple of their own chances. On 57 minutes Lehmann did well to save Godfreys free kick and minutes later he was nearly caught out by a Godfrey cross which caught in the wind. Lehmann was able to react at the last minute and made a fantastic save.
On 68 minutes Crowther was off his line to challenge Callum Parsons for a ball just outside the right edge of the Saints penalty area. Parsons came away with the ball but luckily for Saints Goddard was in the right place clear Parsons shot off the line. Saints withstood strong pressure from Bassett at this stage but defended well with good tackling, good cover and good organisation. Bassett came close to reducing the arrears though on 72 minutes when Dean March was booked for a late tackle in a dangerous area just on the edge of the box. From the resulting freekick TJ Bohan struck a rasping drive which was well saved by Crowther and he was then down very bravely to block Matt Bennett’s rebound from 12 yards.
On 81 minutes Bassett had the ball in the net when Matt Bennett adjusted his body superbly to volley beyond Crowther. However, Bassett celebrations were short lived as the linesman flagged for what seemed to be very close offside decision. Moments later Saints settled matters when the hardworking Stott held the ball up in the right channel. He cut back and delivered a pinpoint 40 yard pass to the unmarked Hammond whose first touch was excellent and his second touch allowed him to wrong foot Aaron Oakley before stroking the ball past Lehmann to settle matters.
Bassett continue to press right until full time and Hartley was required to make an excellent last minute saving tackle and Goddard in the very last minute to make another great clearing interception.
Potentially the final score might seem a little harsh on Bassett who were certainly the equal of Saints in the second half. But Saints were dominant in the first half and in addition to the goals that were scored there were numerous other good chances that were only denied by good last-ditch Bassett defending and good goalkeeping.
Saints will be delighted with the overall performance, the result and the 3 points but also the input of U18’s Lewis Middleton and Hayden McCallum both of whom were bright, inventive and hard-working throughout the game. The result moves Saints up to 5th place in the division and they will now look forward to a home game next Saturday against Lydney Town.