Match Report: Melksham Town FC vs Willand Rovers
Melksham were looking to avenge their opening day defeat to Willand in the reverse fixture at Oakfields on Saturday afternoon. A narrow defeat to Totton in the week being the only defeat for Town in their last 5 meant that the squad had high hopes of a positive result to keep climbing the table. Since their opening day win, the visitors have struggled to find form since, and find themselves in the bottom half of the table.
Oakfield’s has seen 33 goals in its last 5 fixtures, and there were signs of many more to come as Albie Hopkins opened the scoring after just 8 minutes. Sam Hendy’s quick throw released Jay Malshanskyj in behind, and after his initial effort was saved Albie Hopkins was on hand to net his 10th goal of the season in all competitions.
Town continued to control the game after netting the opener, seeing plenty of the ball and forcing Willand to work hard to win it back. However, any clear-cut chances were at a premium, and it wasn’t until the 31st minute that a ‘keeper needed to make a save. Matt Hall was called upon to deny Willand, sticking out a leg to keep out an effort that looked to be heading for the bottom corner.
Eventually however, Town’s persistence paid off with a slice of luck as Jay Malshanskyj’s effort caused a bit of pinball in the box, and the ball eventually rebounding into the back of the net off Willand defender Josh Searle. Originally the linesman had flagged for offside, but after a discussion with the referee - to confirm which player the ball rebounded off -the goal was awarded, and both officials set a great example when dealing with the situation.
Half time soon followed, and Town were heading in with a 2-0 lead at the break for the third week in a row, but a 2-2 draw and a narrow 3-2 win in the previous games meant that Melksham were by no means comfortable.
Both sides came out for the second half knowing the next goal is crucial, one for Town would put them out of sight, and one of Willand would swing the momentum. Another great half of football at Oakfields was to follow.
It was Willand who struck first in the second half, in the 57thminute Archie Reay found the top corner from around 30 yards, a fine goal to get his side back in the game and cause a shift in momentum. Just 10 minutes later Willand struck their equaliser in familiar fashion; Ben Griffith couldn’t have placed his looping strike any better as he found the top corner to level the game.
Two quick goals from Willand had the game back at 2-2, but Town weren’t going to settle for the draw as Rich Fey looked towards his bench to bring on Melksham’s top scorer so far this season, Luke Ballinger. Bally’s arrival on the pitch looked to have given all the players a lift, as now it was Melksham who were playing the football again and looking like the dangerous side they can be.
Town’s quality is what eventually proved the difference. Will Christopher’s inch perfect freekick found Jake Mawford in behind, and a wonderful first touch set him up just to roll the ball past the ‘keeper to put Melksham back in front with little over 10 minutes left. Town continued to play football even with a slender 1-goal lead, and Sam Hendy nearly doubled that lead less than a minute later; Jake Mawford’s cross was met by the head of Hendy and bounced narrowly wide.
However, the miss wasn’t to prove costly as moments after the header went wide, Hendy rectified his miss by getting his goal to double Town’s lead. A great run and low cross from Ralph Graham, who had been fantastic all game, was met at the back post by Luke Ballinger and Hendy was in the right place at the right time to bundle it home.
A big 3 points for Town and revenge for the opening day defeat in a 4-2 victory over Willand means that Town keep climbing up the table. A tough start to the season has been put to bed by Town’s form in recent months, and that’s now 39 goals in the last 6 games at Oakfields (25 for Fey’s boys), and there could be more to follow next Saturday as Town host Highworth in a massive game in the top half of the table.
By Lewie Simmons