Despite defeat against Frome in the Town’s previous Southern League game, Melksham travelled to Bristol Manor Farm – who were enjoying a solid start to the season - in good spirits; a much-needed break and an opportunity for players to return to fitness boosted the options Richard Fey could utilise. Jake Mawford returned to the starting XI for the first time since the opening day defeat as he recovered from a foot injury, and Albie Hopkins also returned following suspension. Midweek re-signing and fan favourite Luke Ballinger was named on the bench, poised to make another debut for the club.
Melksham started on the front foot in the game, whilst looking to put any doubts of their attacking capabilities to bed as Town created chance after chance in the opening stages of the game. First of all, Jay Malshanskyj forced Manor Farm ‘keeper Ben John into a save from a tight angle, then soon after John was on hand again to intervene as Hopkins’ cross looked destined for a tap in.
Eventually, the early dominance from Town paid off, as in the 20th minute Jake Mawford released Albie Hopkins who then carried the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the box, cut in on his left and released a perfect strike, finding the top corner and leaving the ‘keeper with no chance.
Town’s lead would not last long however, as despite the dominance Manor Farm were able to equaliser 2 minutes later with a wonderful strike of their own by Kyle Tooze. The goal however, left the Melksham dugout furious as the goal followed a controversial free kick in the favour of Manor Farm.
It was going to be all about the reaction from the Melksham players now, as after dominating the game and taking the lead they were pegged back by the home side, and Town continued their attacking dominance to the delight of the travelling Town support. Melksham went close a few more times in quick succession; Ben John was forced into another good save by Malshanskyj, and Mawford was denied by the post.
Despite their dominance, Town went in at the break level but not without many positives to take from the first half, and a similar display in the second half would make them favourites for the win.
After a slightly shaky start to the second half for Town, the game evened out as both sides struggled to create anything of note and this signalled the introduction of Luke Ballinger in the 61st minute replacing Jake Mawford, who played well on his return to action.
Melksham were on the front foot again, forcing Manor Farm deeper and deeper into their half and in the 69th minute Town finally retook the lead when Parsons played a superb ball to release Vaughn Covil, who then beat his man and put the ball on a plate for Jay Malshanskyj to fire home. A very well deserved 2-1 lead for Town, but now they had to make sure they stayed in front.
Manor Farm tested Melksham ‘keeper Matt Hall a couple of times as they committed bodies forward, however the Southampton loanee stood firm and didn’t allow any chances for the home side to get back in the game.
As Manor Farm sent more numbers up the pitch, Malshanskyj ran riot with the space left in behind, and when he was played through in the 88th minute, he showed great composure to lift the ball over the out-rushing ‘keeper and find the corner to secure the points for Town in an impressive 3-1 away win.
That’s 2 in 2 for Town now on the road and will be hoping to improve their form at Oakfields as they face Cirencester Town on Tuesday 14th September, 19:45 kick off.
By Lewie Simmons