Match Report: Hartley Wintney vs Melksham Town – FA Trophy
High flying Town made it 5 wins in a row in all competitions with the 2-0 defeat of Mangotsfield away last Saturday. However, a different type of challenge awaited Town this week, with the squad travelling to face higher league opposition in Hartley Wintney FC in The Buildbase FA Trophy.
With a good following from the Town faithful, the inform Melksham side couldn’t have got off to a better start; Will Christopher’s dangerous cross was deflected in off Hartley defender Pascal Kpohomouh after just five minutes. Town were a goal in front early on, and now had the task of keeping it that way against a very well organised opposition.
Town weathered the first storm from Hartley, with Matt Hall being called upon to make a superb save not long after Town went in front, and the crossbar was also called into action as a header looped onto it and safely behind for a goal kick. Suddenly, Town found themselves nearly two in front, Hopkins released Hendy through on goal and forced the keeper into a good save, with Hopkins’ follow-up header somehow being tipped over the bar by the Hartley ‘keeper.
Things went from bad to worse for the home side, Hartley player Jordan Edwards received a straight red card for an awful tackle on Matt Hurley, with the Town player being forced off due to an injury as a result. Town then went close for the second time in quick succession, this time Hopkins header hit the bar, then the ‘keeper, then the post and then eventually cleared. However, unfortunately for Town, this seemed to kick the higher league opposition into action as they managed to score twice in 10 minutes before half time to turn the game on its head. First of the goals came through Sam Argent, who flicked home from close range, then through Mitch Parker who hit a rocket into the top corner.
Town went in at the break trailing by a goal, but with the man advantage and the attacking quality in the side, Town were far from out of the tie. Matt Hurley was forced off just after the break, being replaced by Ralph Graham.
Melksham came out for the second half looking to stretch this Hartley defence and did just that which allowed Mawford to close in on goal, but his mis-hit effort was saved. A golden opportunity squandered from a man who had been scoring for fun, maybe it wasn’t to be our day.
Town continued to dominate and work shooting positions, and a total of 15 attempts at the Hartley goal throughout the afternoon is what ‘keeper Ryan Case had to deal with. Luke Balinger, acting this weekend as player/coach, brought himself on from the dugout to try and claw back a goal for Town. And he came the closest in the second half, with his first touch of the afternoon being a free kick from 30 yards out rattling against the bar and eventually scrambled away.
Despite the Melksham dominance and pressure in the second half, the Hartley Wintnley defence stood firm and managed to see out the game as 2-1 winners, progressing to the next round of the FA Trophy. For Town their sights are now on the Wiltshire Premier Shield, with Royal Wootton Bassett making the journey to Oakfields on Tuesday evening, 19:45 kick off.
By Lewie Simmons