Match Report: Melksham Town vs Royal Wootton Bassett
Following Saturday’s exit from the FA Trophy, Town had a chance to rectify their mistakes with another cup tie. This time it was the Wiltshire Premier Shield, and Royal Wootton Bassett of the Hellenic League made the trip to Oakfields for the first-round clash.
Despite being in a lower division, it was Wootton Bassett who stunned the home side by going a goal up early on after just 5 minutes through Brad Pagliaroli. The away side’s early high press made life difficult for Town in the opening stages, as Melksham looked for a quick equaliser the only chances they could create were a couple of Ralph Graham long-range efforts.
However, persistence paid off for Town as they finally broke down the Bassett backline when Will Christopher sent in a lovely cross to find the head of Jake Mawford to head in the equaliser after 24 minutes. Springing Town into life, Mawford bagged another in the 32nd minute, after Vaughn Covil set him up for a lovely finish inside the box. Town’s third was to follow just two minutes after, Luke Ballinger smashed in a free-kick off the post from 25 yards out. However, the visitors did pull one back just before half time, a lovely solo goal by Bailey Gallagher.
Town went in at half-time with the lead, but they certainly had their work cut out to put this resilient Bassett side out of the tie. The first half display from both sides certainly promised more goals, with both teams looking to score every time they picked up the ball, making it a great spectacle for the fans inside a freezing cold Oakfields.
The start to the second half almost mirrored the first, although it took Bassett all of 7 minutes to score this time, with Bailey Gallagher notching an equaliser for the visitors on the 52nd and a very impressive performance from the young forward. Despite the early second half set-back, it didn’t take long for Town to find their feet again just 4 minutes later, after Jake Mawford secured his second hat-trick of the season. Mawford originally won the penalty after he was brought down in the Bassett box, and coolly converted to put Town back in front.
Manager Rich Fey was back in the dugout this week, and he looked to the bench to bring on more attacking presence in an attempt to put more daylight between the two sides. This decision paid off, as substitute and birthday boy Albie Hopkins came on to set up Luke Ballinger for his 2nd of the game, and Town’s 5th.
The referee awarded Melksham another penalty in the 69thminute, and a chance for Luke Ballinger to score his hat trick, which he did without any doubt. With the score at 6-3 it would have been easy for Town to take the foot off the gas, but after already letting Bassett back into the game earlier, no risks were taken this time as Town added a 7th, 8th, and 9th in the final 10 minutes. Luke Ballinger netted 2 of these, taking his total to 5 for the game, and Albie Hopkins scored the other – a fitting way to mark his birthday and a wonderful second half display from the squad. 9-3 the score ended, perhaps a little harsh on the Wootton Bassett side who had battled hard and competitively throughout, even scoring 3 good goals themselves.
Town move into the next round of the Wiltshire Premier Cup, however the focus is now back on the Southern League for Fey’s men as Winchester City travel to Oakfields Saturday for what promises to be another entertaining afternoon. 24 goals in the last 3 games (16 of those being Town’s) is surely a reason to back the boys this Saturday, 3pm kick off.
By Lewie Simmons