Match Report: Bideford AFC vs Melksham Town
Following last week’s 2-0 win over Highworth, Town were in a great position to make it 4 wins from 4 and potentially move into a play-off position with the half-way mark fast approaching.
A long away journey to a wet, windy, and cold Bideford wasn’t the ideal December opening, but with a squad full of confidence and club legend Dave Thompson back for another spell the lads had their eyes on a fourth win in a row. Fey however would be without his skipper Greg Tindle indefinitely, as the veteran centre half was forced into retirement after last week’s win, due to injury.
The match was off to a cagey start, with both sides looking to adapt to the wet, boggy pitch and swirling winds, and chances were few and far between early on. Matt Hall wasn’t required until the 12th minute, when he stuck out a leg to deny Bideford an opener. Town didn’t have their first real chance until the 20th minute, Jake Mawford’s strike from the edge of the box proved difficult for the ‘keeper to deal with but he did enough to keep it out. But it only took one chance for Jay Malshanksyj to capitalise, the striker latched onto a ball in behind the Bideford defence and rolled the ball past the despairing ‘keeper with great composure to give Melksham the lead in the 24th minute. It was the striker’s 5th league goal of the season, and his first since the win at Slimbridge in October.
Chances remained at a premium for the first half, but Jake Mawford had a golden opportunity to double his sides lead in the 40th minute; after some good work from Sam Hendy, he would then square the ball to Jake Mawford, but the midfielder couldn’t keep his effort down. Not long after that, the halftime whistle sounded, and Town went in with a slender 1-0 lead at the break.
The second half carried on in a similar fashion to the first, chances were few and far between and it was a struggle for either side to dominate the game. Bideford’s main threat came through their set piece. Matt Hall had done well in the first half to deal with the pressure put on him by a physical Bideford attack but couldn’t keep out George Nancekivell’snear post header in the 62nd minute. The scores were now level and a little under 30 mins left to play, the game was still in the balance, and it would have been tough to call a winner.
Town had the first real chance since the equaliser; breaking away from a Bideford free kick, Albie Hopkins played through Jake Mawford down the left and with a tight angle he forced a good save from the ‘keeper. Then moments later Ryan Morgan was called upon to put in a fantastic block to keep out a goal-bound effort.
With the game opening up, a winner for either side was feeling likely even with the clock ticking down, and Fey looked to the reliable Luke Ballinger once again from the bench to make the difference, replacing the Town goal scorer, Jay Malshanksyj. In the 86th minute, and Town still pushing for a winner, Jake Mawford got in behind down the left-hand side. Although he hadn’t had the best game in front of goal, the winger managed to put in an inch perfect cross into the box, and of course Luke Ballinger was there to fly onto the end of it and give Town a late lead. Bally’s 137th goal on his 260th appearance for the club, and we’re starting to run out of superlatives to describe how important a player he is to the club. A mention must go to another club legend, Dave Thompson, who came on for the last 15 minutes to mark his return to the club. A player that the Town faithful are excited to see in black and yellow once again.
Town took the 3 points back to Wiltshire with them and doing so climb into the play-off spots for this weekend at least, a mark of what has been an exciting and successful season so far. Next up are two big home games this week, with a top 6 clash against Sholing on Tuesday evening, and Evesham make the journey to Oakfields on Saturday.
By Lewie Simmons.