Match Report: Melksham Town vs Winchester City
Following a string of cup ties, it was a return to Southern League football for a Melksham side off the back of a 9-3 win in the week over Hellenic League’s Royal Wootton Bassett in the Wilts Cup. However, today’s opposition came in the form of Winchester City, who had made a similar start to the season as Town, being just one point ahead in the table before kick-off. As the Town faithful flooded into Oakfields there was a real expectation for goals, having been 24 in the last 3, and entertainment.
Prior to kick off, players, coaches and fans of both sides observed a minute’s silence in memory of former Melksham Town youth player Ben Smith, who tragically lost his life earlier this week.
The expectation for goals didn’t take long to be met as Melksham were in from after just 2 minutes through Albie Hopkins; the winger was played through down the right by Will Christopher, before cutting in to finish superbly into the bottom corner. That was Hopkins’ 6th goal in all competitions this season, and a tally that looks sure to increase over the season as recent performances suggest.
Town weren’t done there, however. Just two minutes later Hopkins picked up the ball again, but this time he turned provider as he sent a lovely, floated ball into Luke Ballinger who struck it on the volley first time into the top left corner, leaving the ‘keeper with no chance. Ballinger’s 256th appearance for Town (although still playing with the energy as if it was his first) and his 134th goal nails him down as a club legend, but bagging 12th of the season in all competitions already shows that he is not done yet.
Despite being 2-0 up after just 4 minutes, Melksham found it difficult to fathom any more openings in the next stages of the game as a resilient Winchester seemed to have woken up since conceding two early goals. In fact, both sides found it difficult to create anything for the rest of the half – that was until the 43rd minute when Winchester managed to pull one back through a good strike from Kieran Douglas. The half-time whistle sounded shortly after, and Town still had a slender lead at half-time thanks to the two early strikes.
Winchester certainly started the second half better than they started the first, and it took them 5 minutes of second half football to find an equaliser through Simba Mlambo. With the game back level, and after giving away a two-goal lead, Town needed to dig deep to stop the Winchester momentum and come away with something from the game.
The equaliser seemed to have also woken Town up again, as now they gained control of the game again and forced Winchester, who would have been happy with a point, deeper and deeper throughout the second half. This meant that it was hard work for Town to create anything significant against this stubborn defence, and they nearly nicked a winner in the 75thminute when Albie Hopkins corner was well met in the box and after a series of deflections it was somehow cleared off the line.
The game eventually fizzled out and the points were shared, however Town would be feeling slightly disappointed after such a bright start. Nevertheless, it was still a positive display and a good afternoon of entertainment for the Town fans. Up next for Melksham is a trip to Swindon Supermarine on Tuesday, in the second round of the Southern League Challenge Cup.
By Lewie Simmons.