BRACKNELL Town were sent crashing to their first Hellenic League defeat of the season by one of their former stars, writes Dave Wright.

Shane Cooper-Clark scored twice as Thatcham notched a surprisingly comfortable 3-0 win over the out-of-sorts Robins at Waterside Park on Saturday.

And only a string of brilliant saves by keeper Chris Grace denied him and the home side’s other scorer, Josh Helmore, from adding to Town’s misery.

Overall, it was a bitterly disappointing display by Town, one totally out of character, and a very sad ending to the managerial career at the club for departing boss Mark Tallentire.

He had guided his side to four wins over the Kingfishers last season, but there never looked any chance of that sequence continuing.

There was no real rhythm about their play and they were second best in all departments from at No. 1.

Once again, Bracknell were missing several players – among them Jamie McClurg, Liam Ferdinand and Josh Hennah – due to injury, holidays and unavailability, while there was a debut at left-back for Carl Garstang, previously with Camberley.

The defence soon came under pressure and it did not take long for the alarm bells to start ringing.

Grace must have wondered where his back four were as Helmore raced through unchallenged, but the keeper managed to get down to palm the ball away to safety.

He was then relieved to see Cooper-Clark blaze the ball wide after Joe Blount has got behind the visitors before crossing.

But the Thatcham striker made no mistake after 19 minutes when he turned onto Michael Miller’s cross and swiftly rifled the ball low just inside the right-hand post with Grace only able to look on.

Soon afterwards, Helmore was presented with another good opportunity, only to shoot straight at Grace.

But in the 27th minute the Robins goalie was picking the ball out of the net again. His central defenders failed to cut out a long clearance from keeper Chris Rackley to leave Helmore in the clear again, and this time he didn’t miss.

Rackley nearly set up another opportunity for Cooper-Clark, but his effort was kept out by Grace.

The visitors were hardly seen in the first half as an attacking force, although midfielder George Short did aim a lob just over the bar.

In recent weeks, Bracknell had come from behind at half-time to either win or draw, but if they were to do so again then it was going to need a vast improvement. Sadly for them, it never materialised.

It is a long time since they played as badly as this and even the arrival of substitutes Carl Withers, Rob Gerrard and Philip John, failed to spark even a flicker of a recovery.

Grace once again came to his side’s rescue, making two instinctive saves in an instant from Helmore and Cooper-Clark.

But the latter did not have to wait long for his second and Thatcham’s third goal. It came just before the hour mark when Cooper-Clark directed a superbly-placed free-kick from the left-side high inside the near post, just out of Grace’s reach. It was his 12th goal of the season.

By this time Bracknell were looking a rather dispirited outfit, yet they still conjured up a late flourish of attacks which saw Adam Cornell miss two opportunities and Seb Bowerman have an effort saved by Rackley.

They were looking to bounce back at Ascot last night (Tuesday) and then against Oxford City Nomads at Larges Lane this Saturday (3pm) with the return fixture coming as early as next Tuesday at Oxford City Stadium (7.45pm).