Melksham Town 4 v Frome Town 1
Melksham Town welcomed Somerset neighbours Frome Town to Wiltshire on Boxing Day in what was an exciting and entertaining match.
Top of the league Frome Town would have been strong favourites in the lead up to the match, having cruelly been denied a win against Thatcham Town when two nil up at home in their last game when the match was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch. On this occasion the pitch would not be the problem for Frome despite the seemingly constant rain of the last week.
Melksham and Frome were not only close in distance to one another, Frome named no less than five players who had pulled on the yellow or green tops of Melksham over the last few years.
A bumper Boxing Day crowd of 702 packed into the InfiLED Arena to see how the local rivals would square up to each
other. The initial signs were that it would be a tightly contested affair.
Within the first minute the ball broke to Joe O’Loughlin on the left hand side his speculative cross flashed through the Melksham area and it wasn’t far from drawing Jamie Bartlett into early action.
The next real chance resulted in the opening goal, in what has become a common sentence over the last few years Luke Ballinger received the ball 25 yards from goal, shot and scored. It wasn’t quite that simple though, Ballinger collected a bouncing ball in the old fashioned inside right position around 30 yards out from Rob Brown’s goal. He was closely marshalled by two Frome players but his first touch coaxed the ball towards the centre of the goal and his second looped it right footed into the back corner of the net.
The returning Brown could do nothing to stop it and after only 8 minutes Melksham took the lead. It was celebrated well and the home crowd began to sense that this could be a closer game than the league table suggested.
Melksham took heart from the early success and pressed the Frome midfield and defence with tenacity. The home team were winning the 50/50’s and looked well and truly up for the occasion.
In the 18th minute Dan Cottle was robbed midway inside the Frome half, Jack Ball’s harrying resulted in him being presented with an opportunity around 20 yards out and his imaginative lob narrowly cleared the bar. Melksham were beginning to enjoy the lions share of the possession and gained confidence by the minute.
Around five minutes later Jack Ball again found himself in a promising position and looked to break clear of Marcus Mapstone. As he paced into the penalty box he appeared to be caught by the leg of the defender, he went down and despite the protestations for a penalty, both the assistant and referee waved it away.
Melksham had a couple of free kicks on the left hand side which were delivered into the dangerous area just in front of Brown. Luckily for Frome no one was able to get a touch but it was clear the home side were getting on top and enjoying the occasion.
Jake Mawford, Jack Ball and Phil Ormrod all had chances as the half drew to an end, with only solid defending from Sam Teale stopping Melksham from doubling their lead.
Whilst Melksham had been on top their were glimmers from the away side, Jon Davies and Kane Simpson both having opportunity to stretch their legs as the half entered its last stages. It was former Melksham man Davies who would ultimately secure an unlikely half time equaliser when he took the ball out of the sky, and got himself one on one with Jamie Bartlett.
Much like Luke Ballinger from around the 20-30 yard range, Jon Davies doesn’t miss much in these situations. He expertly finished and it was one all at half time.
The second half began and Frome looked to build on their newly found parity with the home side. Dan Cottle had a shot but the former Bradford Town man found Jamie Bartlett in solid form.
Albie Hopkins was introduced for the home side and immediately looked to get on the ball and run at the Frome defence. He caused problems from the left and injected an impetus into the final quarter of the game.
This was rewarded in the 70th minute when excellent work form Jake Mawford on the right wing delivered him in a position where he pulled the ball back for the well placed Hopkins. Hopkins smashed the ball from around 9 yards out beyond Brown and Melksham were now leading 2 -1.
The home fans around the ground met the goal with relish and began to celebrate with renewed enthusiasm.
Frome knowing the game was beginning to slip away committed more players forward and this was punished in the 73rd minute when the ball was played forward beyond the last defender. Luke Ballinger raced onto the ball beating the keeper to it easily he then deftly chipped the ball over him sending it bouncing into the back of the net.
Melksham now led 3 -1 with less than twenty minutes to go and Ballinger was swamped by the home fans behind the goal. The home fans were singing and Melksham were now looking at inflicting only Frome’s second defeat of the season in the League.
Former Melksham man Mark Cooper was then red card for a second booking when he brought down the flying Hopkins around 25 yards out. There were no real complaints from Cooper and had Hopkins skipped clear he would have been into the box and potentially clean through.
The resulting free kick was taken by Luke Ballinger whose free kick struck the post before bouncing clear. Joe Romanski was on hand and showed his finishing prowess by lashing home left footed on the half volley. The ball was past Rob Brown before he could raise his hands. It was an emphatic finish and no more than Melksham deserved.
The remaining time was played out without incident and Melksham comfortably secured the win.
Melksham Town are next in action on New Years Day when they travel to Paulton Rovers in the League for another local derby. Town will be looking to extend their unbeaten League run into the New Year in a 3pm kick off.