Match Report: Melksham Town FC vs Highworth Town
Town looked to climb closer to the play-offs as they faced an in-form Highworth side at Oakfields on a windy Saturday afternoon.
Following last weeks win over Willand, and with the halfway point in the season approaching, Melksham were hopeful of another 3 points to further consolidate their solid start to the season. However, the opposition were also enjoying a strong start to the season themselves, and after inflicting a first defeat of the season on Frome last week Highworth were also coming into the game hopeful of 3 points. A win for either side in the fixture could prove vital come the end of the season as both Melksham and Highworth sit just outside the play-offs.
An incredibly cold and windy first half made it not only tough for the supporters but also the players, and as Town had to play against the strong wind in the opening half it meant a different type of performance was needed. Despite the conditions being against them, it was Town who created the best opportunities of the first half; Sam Hendy’s freekick was played short to Albie Hopkins who then struck the post with his resulting effort. Hopkins was later denied by former Town ‘keeper Connor Johns just before the break – the sides went in at 0-0, but Town were certainly the happier of the two.
Melksham, with the wind behind them now, came out for the second half full of confidence after a solid first half display. Hopkins went close again, hitting the bar direct from a corner, before eventually getting himself a deserved goal 59 minutes into the game. Ralph Graham intercepted Connor Johns’ clearance and played Hopkins through, and then showed some lovely composure to beat the defender and finish past Johns. Matt Hall made a really important stop just before the Town goal, as Highworth were bearing down on goal and looked likely for an opener themselves.
Manager Rich Fey then brought on the ever-reliable Luke Ballinger, replacing Jay Malshanskyj – who had put in a great shift in extremely tough conditions – and it was a decision that paid off for Town. Just 10 minutes after coming on Bally netted his 12th of the season in all comps, scoring straight from a corner thanks to an error from the former Town ‘keeper Connor Johns. Town now 2-0 up and well in control of the game.
Scoring hasn’t been an issue for Town in recent weeks, however the main focus for the rest of the game was to keep a clean sheet – something they had been without since the 2-0 away win at Mangotsfield in October. As the clocked ticked past 90, a handshake of appreciation between Ollie Webb and skipper Greg Tindle as they had earned themselves a hard-fought clean sheet.
Unfortunately, skipper Greg Tindle did confirm after the game that he is having to retire due to a hip injury. We would like to thank Greg for his contribution to the club this season and to non-league football in general over the years. A superb player, and a great captain. All the best Greg.
Up next for Town is a long away trip to Bideford on Saturday the 4th of December, and a chance to further bolster a potential play-off push.
By Lewie Simmons.