Melksham Town 2 v AFC Totton 2 – att – 362
Melksham and Totton played out a hard fought draw on a dark and damp afternoon in Wiltshire. Whilst the rain that seems to always arrive in time for Saturday at the moment stayed away during the match, the floodlights were needed from the start.
The match got off to a slow start with chances few and far between in the opening exchanges. An early Luke Ballinger free kick on the left flashed across the goal but eluded everyone.
Albie Hopkins looked lively on his home debut and was instrumental in working the ball wide to the marauding Will Christopher, his cross eventually was headed towards goal by Liam Monelle but easily held by Alexander Cull in the Totton goal.
Totton threatened on the right side with Adam McWilliam working his way towards the byline before cutting it back for Oliver Bradley. Bradley’s low shot narrowly missed the post and went behind for a goal kick.
Craig Feeney was next to threaten for Totton when he raced onto a long ball and flashed his shot past the far post with only Bartlett to beat.
The opening goal fell to the away team and came after more good work on the right tee’d up Mitchell Byne to smash home from around 8 yards out at the near post.
Melksham were not disheartened though and Luke Ballinger looked always looked dangerous from range but Totton defended strongly as the light began to fade.
It was Luke Ballinger who created the next chance when he was taken out crudely on the edge of the area by Matt Bozier’s robust challenge. The resulting free kick rebounded off the wall and Liam Monelle’s fierce shot was clawed away at the near post by Cull.
Just before half-time Hopkins then brought another save from Cull after cutting in from the right and forcing him to palm away for a corner.
The second half kicked off with Melksham looking enlivened by the half time team talk. They began to cross and put the ball into areas which asked questions of the Totton defence. In the 55th minute, Captain Dave Thompson nearly capped his 300th appearance for the club with an equaliser. Liam Monelle delivered a fine ball and Thompson’s fierce header went narrowly over the bar.
Moments later Luke Ballinger ran down the left hand side and unleashed a shot which rebounded to Liam Monelle, his shot was inches away from giving Melksham parity, narrowly missing the corner of Cull’s goal. The home side then proceeded to hit the bar through Albie Hopkins powerful snap shot and it looked destined to be an afternoon of frustration.
This looked to be compounded in the 67th minute when the always dangerous Craig Feeney broke through and skewed his shot wide with only Bartlett to beat.
Melksham kept to their task and were rewarded in the 73rd minute when Phil Ormrod chased a seemingly lost cause into the penalty area. With the defender trying to see the ball out, Ormrod had other ideas and kept it alive on the goal line. As he seemed destined to cross the ball for the onrushing Melksham players he was rugby tackled around the waist and impeded by Robin Nicholls.
A penalty was awarded and Luke Ballinger stepped up to dispatch it into the bottom right corner.
Melksham seemed destined to go on and win the game. Will Christopher went on a mazy run before drawing a fine save from Cull with only minutes to go. Melksham poured forward and stretched the play utilising the full playing surface.
Totton had other ideas and with time running out in the 87th minute substitute Silvano Obeng somehow turned his marker and found himself through on goal. His finished calmly and Totton were looking at picking up a valuable win.
As the clock struck 90 minutes, Melksham refused to die and forced a corner after good pressure from their attackers. The corner was met by Joe Romanski who headed it firmly over the line amongst a melee of players. It was a deserved goal and met with relief by the all of the team and the home fans deep into injury time. It was a memorable end to a day when Melksham unveiled a new club shirt sponsor in Wiltshire Tyres and Dave Thompson celebrated his 300th appearance in Yellow and Black, with a man of the match performance.
Our next game is the short trip into Bath when we play Larkhall Athletic next Saturday 30th November with a 1500hrs kick off.
Match report by Rich Nelsen
Photos courtesy of Starsphinx photography