Saturday, 8 December 2018

Royal Wootton Bassett Town - New Gerard Buxton Sports Ground

Royal Wootton Bassett Town FC
New Gerard Buxton Sports Ground
Brinkworth Road
Royal Wootton Bassett

Ground Number: 823
Friday 7th December 2018
Royal Wootton Bassett Town 1-1 Brimscombe & Thrupp
Hellenic Premier


The original club was formed in 1882 and up until recently, were known as Wootton Bassett Town. They played in various leagues including the Vale Of White, Swindon & District and the Wiltshire League. The latter of these bought in a rule that players had to live within a certain radius of the club and this together with financial pressures caused the club to fold in 1908. They would re-emerge in 1930, this time playing in the Calne & District League. The second world war would interrupt and when football resumed, the club would play in the Wiltshire Leagues with mixed fortunes. 1988 would see them make the step up to the Hellenic League, initially in Division 1. Finishes here were mixed, ranging from as low as 12th on a couple of occasions to as high as 3rd in the 1999/00 season. That allowed them to be promoted to the Hellenic Premier. Despite a respectable 13th place finish in their first season, they generally struggled and were relegated in 2005 after finishing second-bottom. It would take them until 2010 to bounce back, by way of a runners-up spot to Slimbridge. Though they finished in a respectable 15th, they were demoted due to ground grading. Wootton Bassett Town would spend two more seasons back in Division 1 West, finishing as runners-up to Brimscombe & Thrupp in 2013. This would lead to a two-year groundshare with Cirencester Town and it was in the second of these seasons that the club would enjoy their best ever finish in the clubs history of 11th in the Hellenic Premier, a feat they would repeat a couple of seasons later. 2015 would see them renamed Royal Wootton Bassett Town and return home. Since then, finishes have been mid-table but this season has seen an incredible upturn in results with them sitting in 4th coming into their latest game.

The best FA Cup run came during the 2012/13 season when they beat Calne Town, Hamworthy United and Highworth Town before a 4-0 defeat at Dorchester Town in the 2nd Qualifying Round. The FA Vase 2nd Round has been reached on a couple of occasions - in 2008 when they lost 4-0 at Wimborne Town and then again in 2017 as they lost 3-2 at Horndean. The club has won a plethora of local trophies, the most notable of which is a pair of Wilshire Senior Cups in 1999 and 2001. The town of Wootton Bassett was granted Royal patronage in 2011 due to many war heroes coming from the town and has a population of 11,385.


I'm always keen on a bit of Friday night football, but the options are usually few and far between. This proved to be the case this week - the nearest viable options with my usual Friday hopper Chris were Welshpool Town and Norwich CBS, but he had done both. We did briefly consider Barry Town but in the end, decided against it as it was a bit of a stretch getting there and it would also be a long way back and a late night. Royal Wootton Bassett Town was a lot nearer, but geographically unviable going via Milton Keynes. It worked for going via my regular hopper Anwar though, but he'd not shown much interest in hopping lately. But when I told him how near it was, he was thankfully up for it and so I'd have some company for the journey, plus help with fuel costs. The day of the game came and it was a reasonably easy day with me working 5-12 including a free Christmas buffet at the end. I came home and spent the afternoon catching up on my YouTube subscriptions before leaving at 4.15. I was at Anwar's half an hour later and soon enough, we were on our way. There were a few delays, but overall, it was a good journey for a Friday night. We got to our pre-planned stop of Morrisons in Swindon at 6.20. Their cafe is usually pretty decent and I'd wanted a sit-down meal with it being chilly. I'd deliberately selected the store with the Cafe that closed at 7PM as I'd been caught out in the past with early closers. So I was most disappointed when I went to order food with 40 minutes till closing, only to be told that they stopped serving hot food at 5.30 as they closed at 7. Bizzare and an utter disgrace, but par for the course with Morrisons shoddy customer service. Luckily there was a chip shop outside and although Saveloy and chips eaten in my car was not ideal, it was decent enough for £2.70.

From there, we made our way to the ground, getting there at 7.20. Entry was a reasonable £6 and a programme was £1.50. The latter was superb, a real amount of effort put into making something worth reading. I only had around 15 minutes to kill before a kickoff, a result of leaving as late as possible to avoid any late postponements due to the rain. I needn't have worried as the pitch was in superb condition. The visitors were well on top during the early exchanges and they hit the inside of the post through Sam Blackie on 11 minutes. They should have got a penalty shortly after, but the referee waved away the claims. They did get a penalty on 22 minutes, a highly dubious one and probably awarded as the referee knew he had messed up the first decision. Ash Caldwell stepped up, but the home Keeper Sawyer produced a brilliant save. I assume he was a reserve team player as he wasn't featured in the team profiles in the programme, however, he was the man of the match for the Wootton Bassett. There was finally a legitimate penalty awarded on 41 minutes, this time Caldwell scored, despite a good effort to save the shot from Sawyer. The hosts should have had a free kick, but in general, they were very poor and it was a mystery how they sat 4th in the table. Wootton Bassett did improve in the second half and they'd go on to equalise with their first serious shot and well-travelled striker TJ Bohane netted a looping header. The home keeper was caught out of his area later on, but Brimscombe were too slow to take advantage. The ref didn't help the game, far too fussy and kept breaking up the play. The visitors looked the more likely winners, and they were awarded a host of free kicks, however, most were overhit. The game ended 1-1 and by 9.45 we were away. I stopped at the Co-Op for a few local ciders before heading home. The Two Mikes om TalkSport kept us company on the way home with me dropping Anwar off at 11.25. I was home 25 minutes later and so I had a couple of bottles while typing this blog before going to bed around 2 am.


The new GERARD BUXTON SPORTS GROUND is a well kept and smart venue, but its a bit dull. Its the standard new build - open bar a couple of metal 'Arena' stands - one seated and one standing with around a capacity of around 100 each. They do the job to a point and satisfy ground grading criteria, but not much more than that. Facilities at the ground are OK, a basic tea bar and a spacious bar that shows TV football. The town is around a mile walk away. There is a decent range of merchandise, but this is to order and prices reflect this. The programme is £1.50 and is excellent, with plenty of stats.


I visited Wootton Bassett's old ground in August 2007, whilst I was on the way to a Plymouth Argyle v Wycombe Wanderers game. As it was around 7 am, the ground was all shut up and so I was lucky enough to find a hole in the fence. I was impressed with a nice homely ground, but the authorities were obviously not as they demanded improvements, meaning that the club had to share at Cirencester for a couple of seasons. 

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