Wednesday 19th August 2015 ko 19.45
Hellenic League Premier Division
ROYAL WOOTTON BASSETT TOWN 2 (Packer 32 Bailey 89)
ARDLEY UNITED 1 (Howkins 40p)
This season has seen Wootton Bassett return home after a two-year exile at Cirencester Town. They’ve moved into a purpose-built facility on the Malmesbury Road, with their old ground at Rylands way now gradually disappearing under a close of houses.
Since they left, Wootton Bassett has gained the prefix “Royal” the patronage a reward for the town’s tributes to fallen service personnel as the corteges passed through here between RAF Lyneham to Oxford. The honour was added to the town’s name in October 2011, with the football club adding the title at the end of July this year.
But what is the new ground like? The easy answer is still a work in progress, with plant (and a pair of boots) parked in the car park. That’s hardly surprising, that was only the 3rd competitive game here, and the first under lights.
The clubhouse, and bar area are spacious and well-appointed, with a separate hospitality area although Ardley chairman Norman Stacey sat quietly unrecognised in the public bar. Many visited, if only to escape the rain and read the excellent programme before heading outside to the turnstiles.
And its at this point I have mixed feelings. A groundhopper will tend to look at flat hard standing and two “Arena” stands and wince. That view is borne out of wanting to see something different at each ground visited. It ignores the community 3G pitch next door, and all the various community groups that will use here. Yes Arena stands are dull, and I’m certainly no fan of them, but in this instance the architect has placed them on plinths, mitigating the stands’ notoriously poor sight-lines, and I both stayed dry and got a good view from the covered stand underneath the windmill.
The game was intriguing, with the visitors having turned a park pitch into a genuine Step 5 ground with a team to match under Mr Stacey’s stewardship. It was one of those open games where either side could have won, those I tend to think that neither should. Bassett took the lead when good approach play on the right set up Sam Packer to slot home.
Ardley equalised through Steve Howkins’ penalty early in the second half, and that could and should have been it. But with just over minute left Bassett were awarded a free kick just outside the box. Dan Bailey hammered it, the wall flinched, and the ball caught just enough of a deflection to take the ball away from Jack Goode in the Ardley goal.
It wasn’t exactly justice, but few would begrudge the hosts their first win at their new home, and on a personal level it was good to see a club present themselves well, if you can ignore the prefab stands Royal Wootton Bassett Town remains a great place to watch a game.