Larkhall Athletic 2 v Melksham Town 2
Melksham Town made the short trip across the county border into the outskirts of Bath on a cold and wintry afternoon. As usual the welcome was warm from Larkhall and the clubhouse was packed before the game with everyone looking to stay as comfortable as they could before the game got going.
The pitch was heavy due to the recent wet weather and this became apparent during the opening exchanges. Melksham wearing their bright yellows shirts stood out in the gloom, as dusk looked to draw in immediately after kick off. The game started with a testing of each other’s aerial defence abilities.
Larkhall’s early probes at the centre of the Melksham defence found Josh Ford and Dave Thompson in solid looking form, both meeting a couple of early bombardments with composure.
Melksham looked to get the ball out wide regularly with both Albie Hopkins and Luke Ballinger showing decent close control and working some clever openings despite the pitch making this difficult. Larkhall meanwhile looked to counter getting the ball forward quickly and exploiting the pace of new signing Thomas Hillman on the left and Wayne Nderemani on the right wing. Larkhall were limited in their attacking play by an inability to stay onside during a frustrating period where Melksham looked to be the more likely to score.
The opening goal came from good work on the left by Luke Ballinger who delivered a teasing ball into the home penalty area. Phil Ormrod who had started the match strongly found space around 8 yards out and helped the ball skilfully into the back of the net beyond Shaun Semmens.
It was in all honesty a deserved lead and one which the away side looked to build on. Ten minutes later the lead was doubled when Ormrod turned provider as he worked an opportunity from nothing in the penalty area close to the goal line. His clever cross was threaded through a packed area before Aidan Chainey found himself in front of goal with only Semmens to beat. He did so skewing the ball back beyond the despairing keeper.
The floodlights were now illuminating Plain Ham and half time arrived with a migration of supporters towards the Clubhouse to briefly escape the lowering temperature.
The second half began with Larkhall beginning to press more and seeking to get a foothold back in the game. Despite having more possession they still didn’t create much of note as the match entered the final quarter.
In the 68th minute everything changed, strange things happen in football every week at every level. Larkhall were awarded a free kick just outside the Melksham area, the ball was placed and Dale Evans, the former Paulton Rovers stalwart stepped up. His vicious strike cleared the wall and initially seemed to be covered by Jamie Bartlett in the goal. Instead the ball cracked against the lower edge of the crossbar into Bartlett and ended up in the net. Larkhall had pulled one back but more significantly Melksham’s number one keeper was injured during the incident and after a lengthy delay was substituted for evergreen goalkeeping coach Nick Evans.
Melksham sought to re organise and the momentum seemed to switch to Larkhall who sensed the game was now for the taking. The home created a number of chances and aimed to put the new keeper under pressure. This also allowed Melksham the chance to break on a number of occasions and show that they were not going to simply back down.
The key move which led to the equaliser came about when a cross field ball made its way over to Charlie Wiles-Richards on the left flank. His steep cross to the far post was met perfectly by Alex Lambert and headed home to bring the scores level.
There remained still time for both Nick Evans and Shaun Semmens to make superb last ditch saves for their teams. Evans using his right foot to excellently stop an angled shot which seemed destined to win the game for Larkhall, and Semmens pulling out the stops when faced with a one on one situation which would have snatched it for Melksham. Both of these were well into stoppage time – of which there was 9 minutes.
It was indeed a measure of the game that Shaun Semmens was awarded the home side’s Man of the Match. A familiar tale this season where Melksham have often brought the best out of the opposition goalkeeper.
In summary it was a good team performance against a team which are established in the Southern League.
Thanks to starsphinx.com for images.
Melksham Town’s next game is on Tuesday night, 3rd of December at Salisbury in the Wiltshire Shield – 1945hrs kick off.
Following this League action resumes on Saturday 7th of December with a 1500hrs kick off at Barnstaple Town in Devon. The first of three trips to Devon this month.