Wantage Seal Late Winner
It only seem like the blink of an eye since Wantage ended their season on 25th May but here we were again on the fourth day of August getting things under way again.
No doubt there will be highs and lows in the games to come over the next 9 months or so, but there will be few that match today’s drama as Wantage stole all three point with an injury time winner against a 10 man Fairford who were leading 2-0 going into the last 20 minutes.
Manager Sadler was away on a family holiday leading up to the game which no doubt included a game of the family favourite Monopoly. But it was only today he discovered he still had a ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card in his pocket…
Wantage had a familiar look about them as they lined up for the seasons’ opener with just one new signing in the starting XI in former Wootton Bassett midfielder Callum Wright. Brad Cox sat the game out through suspension with Matt Cheetham filling the slot.
After some early Wantage pressure it was very much against the run of play when Fairford took the lead on 6 minutes, Curtis Meare couldn’t quite hang on as he collected the ball high and it spilled free as he hit the deck for Fairford’s John Thomas to gleefully tap home.
But the game seemed to swing Wantage’s way two minutes later as Josh Jones committed himself to a rash tackle in the middle of the park, though it was a surprise to most when the referee pulled the red from his back pocket to leave Fairford to defend their lead short-handed in the blistering heat.
Wantage ramped up the pressure, winning half-a-dozen or more corners, but were unable to get a clean effort at goal. Chris Jackson came closest on 24 minutes, sending a powerful header over.
Two minutes later the energetic Mark Flanagan whipped in a great cross from the left flank that Jim Glover met on the run but he couldn’t keep the ball down and again it was away to safety. Another Flanagan cross on 40 minutes was flicked just wide by Robertson as The Freds looked to level things before the break.
Harvey Scholes thought he had done just that two minutes before the interval, but there were no real complaints at the assistant’s flag that had long been raised.
Neither side made changes at the break and Wantage were straight onto the front foot again within a minute as Glover broke down the right and got the luck of the bounce to get round the home keeper before pulling it back. Unfortunately it found Robertson with his back to goal, and not realising the space behind him he tried to back-heel it home only for it to be deflected behind for yet another corner.
The prolific striker almost made amends on 51 minutes with his first clean strike at goal, but Mitchell was down well to smother it. Wantage then made their first change, the 6’ 5” striker Kaylem Patterson coming on for his debut in the place of Harvey Scholes as they looked to strengthen the threat up front.
But when Thomas caught Wantage on the break and out-muscled the defence to fire the hosts 2-0 up on 65 minutes it looked like it was going to be a day to forget for Wantage. Man advantage or not it was going to take a monumental effort from Wantage if they were going to get anything from the game now.
But never say never, and that effort was forthcoming!
With 20 minutes left Fairford skipper Lee Smith clearly pushed Flanagan in the back as he was about to meet Jack Buchanan’s cross and Wantage’s skipper Jackson stepped up to slot home from the spot. Maybe Wantage could salvage a point after all!
And then with 15 to go came the game’s controversial turning point as Robertson fired home from the left hand side of the six yard box. Seemed a good goal, but then there was the ball going through the crowd barrier and into the grassland behind the goal …. Had it clipped the side netting and gone past, or had it gone in and out through a hole in the net? Where was VAR when it was needed?
After a quick consultation with his assistant the referee awarded the goal, much to Fairford’s consternation. Whilst half the team chose to question the decision the others made a theatrical inspection of the net, trying to find the supposed hole but ignoring the arc beneath it as they pulled it about.
As it transpired it was the correct decision to allow the goal to stand, as some of the home players later admitted, but they continued to protested at the time none-the-less.
So Wantage would take a point away after all! Hang on …. In to the first minute of stoppage time and the ball’s drilled into Robertson’s feet. He turns and places a shot to Mitchell’s left … it couldn’t, could it? Oh yes, it can, and it does!! It goes beyond Mitchell’s reach and inside the far post as the visitor’s go wild.
Another five minutes of injury time were seen out without major concerns and it was three points heading back to Wantage rather than the one, or none, which had seemed the more likely.
Overall it wasn’t the best of performances from Wantage against a much improved Fairford side who will feel very hard done by.
Fairford Town: Ben Mitchell; John Watson, Michael Oakes (Steve Hall 61), Robbie James, Nathan Hawkins, Fred Ward, Lee Smith (c) (Jack Beardsell 72), Callum Preece (Ben Lodge 83), John Thomas, Dan Bailey, Josh Jones. Subs n/u: Liam Thomas, Mason Thompson.
Referee: Charlie Bullock
Photo courtesy of @FairfordTownFC
INDEPENDANT VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS CAN BE FOUND HERE: Fairford v Wantage