Sam Collier has placed his faith in teenage goalkeeper Ellis Parker ahead of Royal Wootton Bassett’s uhlsport Hellenic League trip to face Tuffley Rovers this weekend. Writes Shaun Reynolds Sports Writer for The Swindon Advertiser
Parker, 16, made his debut for Bassett last weekend in the club’s 2-1 win over Longlevens at the Gerrard Buxton Sports Ground. On loan from Chippenham Park, Parker (pictured right) composed himself after making a horrendous goalkeeping error to deny Longlevens a potential winner in the game’s closing minutes. His performance mirrored the efforts of fellow teenagers Dan Warre and Caine Bradbury. And with Tuffley expected to put out an equally youthful XI on Saturday, Collier has backed his squad to fire the club back into the division’s top half before the turn of the month.
He said: “It’s a big ask for a16-year-old to play men’s football in goal, if you make a mistake out on pitch at that age you have to have good character. And Ellis (Parker) proved that character last weekend, I was delighted for him and the rest of the team. Declan Lehmann (first choice ‘keeper) has gone to America, and my assistant has been in goal lately. But we’ve put our trust in Ellis and the rest of the youngsters. They’ve been superb, I’m very proud of what they have achieved.”
Bassett’s timely win last weekend lifted them several places into 12th with 15 fixtures remaining this season. Despite Collier’s side losing more than half of their fixtures, they could still launch a challenge to finish in the division’s top six. Shrivenham, currently sixth, are only six points clear of Bassett – though admittedly have two games in hand.
The Bassett boss isn’t lacking in ambition, though, and would love nothing more than for his squad to excel in the later months of the season. He added: “Tuffley Rovers are a young side like us, their coach has got them working hard. They scored two against a difficult Fairford side last weekend, but we are climbing that table. At the start of last weekend, we were close to the bottom three and now we’re mid-table. We’re in good spirits and looking forward to the game. The lads are enjoying things at the moment, and I know we’ve played a few more games than other teams but we really aren’t far away from the top six. I would rather have points on the board than games in hand. The league is incredibly tight, so we’ll keep plugging away with 15 more games to go. I want us to end the season better than last year.”