Melksham made the trek North to Worcestershire to take on established Southern League campaigners’ Evesham United on Saturday. Both clubs were positioned well towards the top end of the League table before kick off and like the game earlier in the season it was a closely fought affair.
As you enter Evesham from the direction of the M5 the ground is situated to your left with the Malvern Hills looming in the distance to the West. The clouds looked dark as they guarded the peaks of the Hills, but it was the wind which was beginning to gust as the opening fronts of Storm Ciara began to edge across the Country. Despite this it was dry to start with and the sun made a number of welcome appearances during the pre match warm ups and preparation.
Evesham had the wind at their backs in the first half and from the opening moments it was apparent that the weather was going to have a major impact on the game. Evesham although aided by the wind giving them giving them strength found it difficult to find their range and a number of early balls forward raced away for goal kicks or harmlessly into the hands of Jamie Bartlett.
It was the away side who had the first chance after 5 minutes with Josh Ford controlling well following a corner and half volleying wide of the Evesham goal.
The wind continued to make it difficult and whilst both sides were showing plenty of endeavour it was not a day for extravagance or finesse.
Adam Page for Evesham was next in line to create a moment of excitement for the home crowd and when his left footed corner from the right was initially blocked, he swung it back in towards the far post. It evaded everyone and narrowly missed the goal.
Just before twenty minutes had been reached Steve Murray for Melksham raced through as the ball held up and cleverly beat his man. His left footed shot was superbly saved by Lochlan Robertson, the young Evesham keeper on loan from Bristol City. Even after the save the ball bounced towards the net but was well cleared by the covering defence.
Around halfway through the first half the home side had a pair of chances with Paul Sullivan and Jamie Lucas both having shots from outside the area. Sullivan’s flashing wide of the goal and Lucas shooting straight at Bartlett.
Five minutes before the break Murray again got the better of the home defence before squaring an inviting ball across the area from the by-line. Unfortunately for the visitors there was no one arriving to add the finishing touch.
Just before the break Phil Ormrod displayed great strength to hold off his man and then bring another wonderful stop from the home keeper Robertson from close range.
Lee Chilton for Evesham also tried to break the deadlock with a purposeful run down the right, but as he entered the area he was met by the formidable Joseph Romanski whose strong tackle ended he attack.
All square at half time in what had been a competitive and rugged first period, as the second half got underway the rain began to lash across the pitch and the floodlights brought some light to replace the now departing sun.
Evesham were first to create in the second half with Harry Franklin heading over from a corner kick after finding himself some space.
Franklin did well again skipping past a challenge and winning a corner from a blocked shot, the corner was wasted and then began a period of Melksham pressure.
With sixty five minutes gone a Luke Ballinger free kick from a fairly central position was well saved by Robertson to his left and then cleared away by the defence. Minutes later both Ballinger and Ormrod had chances in the penalty area but Evesham threw bodies in front of the ball and were committed in defence.
The only goal of the game came after solid tackle around the halfway line caused the ball to loop up and break kindly to Jamie Lucas who with space in front of him raced towards the away goal. He took a couple of touches and fired low into the net and giving the home side the lead. It was a good finish and left Melksham with around fifteen minutes to get something.
Melksham tried to get back on terms and within the remaining minutes camping themselves in the Evesham half. Robertson was forced to tip over his bar from a wayward defensive clearance and then with virtually the last kick of the game Jack Ball flashed a shot over the bar amongst a crowd of Melksham attackers and Evesham defenders.
It was a very even game with both sides struggling to play in their usual style in testing conditions.
Melksham Town are next in action at home against former Conference South team Basingstoke Town on Saturday 15th February with a 3pm kick off.