Melksham Town 2 – 1 Mangotsfield United
Melksham continued their recent upturn in form with a well deserved home win against their visitors from Bristol on a dry but cold afternoon.
The game began at a pace and both sides looked keen to assert their authority on the match. Although the league positions would favour the visitors, Melksham had remained unbeaten in the League during November and won away in North Devon last week.
The game was only five minutes old when the first major incident occurred, Aidan Chainey for Melksham was cleaned out by a lunge from Jake Thomas. It looked like a typical forward’s challenge with Thomas stretching for the ball with little chance of getting it. After a pause during which Chainey received treatment, referee Gareth Dunn drew a red card from his back pocket for the Mangotsfield winger.
Red cards early in games are rarely met without controversy but it was late, high and reckless. Whether deserved or not, it left Mangotsfield with eighty plus minutes to play with a man short.
Mangotsfield were clearly still seething and could easily have been down to nine men a few minutes later when Chainey was again fouled. This time on the grandstand side of the ground he was felled as he looked to jink past a visiting midfielder. With tensions still running high from the previous incident, Ben Brooks appeared to ‘walk’ on the grounded Melksham man. Brooks may claim not to have seen him on the ground but I guess he probably knew he was there.
Despite happening a few metres from the assistant referee, Brooks was shown a yellow card and Mangotsfield kept their ten men. Emotions were understandably high and both benches probably could feel aggrieved with the start to the match. Melksham feeling that the visitors could be two men down already and Mangotsfield hoping for a bit more discretion from the match officials in the opening exchanges.
The game settled into a pattern with Mangotsfield looking to exploit the pace of Dan Demkiv with directed balls testing the Melksham backline, and Melksham looking to work the flanks through debutant Jake Mawford and Albie Hopkins.
Mawford was lively and shot narrowly wide in the 20th minute from the right hand wing, before forcing Radovanovic to make a solid save minutes later.
Mangotsfield looked dangerous despite their numerical disadvantage and former Melksham man Demkiv was blocked by Melksham captain Josh Ford when he could have scored from within the penalty box.
Ben Brooks for Mangotsfield threatened on the half hour mark when his free kick was smashed into the wall before sitting nicely for him to curl it wide of Jamie Bartlett’s left hand post.
Minutes later Bartlett produced a flying save to his right to deny Brooks from another free kick on the edge of the area. He flew to his right to save the shot and divert it wide for a corner.
Melksham nearly took the lead just before half time when a Will Christopher cross pinged around the box before Aidan Chainey’s shot was gratefully smothered by Marko Radovanovic.
The second half began and Luke Ballinger almost sneaked a shot past the Mangoes keeper from around the 18 yard line. This seemed to spike the away side into life and Jamie Bartlett in the home goal was required to make a couple of superb saves in quick succession from mid range strikes.
Mangotsfield were soon to beat him though when the ball was delivered to the far post and James Ollis arrived to tuck the ball home in the 55th minute to the delight of the away side.
It seemed as though Melksham were set for a frustrating finish as they continued to have plenty of the ball but were unable to find a way through the away defence.
Richard Fey made three changes in the 65th minute as he sought to find a way past the stubborn away side. Into the fray entered Liam Monelle, Sol Pryce and joint top scorer Jack Ball.
The new players brought fresh energy and the match was level in the 74th minute when Will Christopher’s cross from the right fell to sub Liam Monelle around 15 yards out. He unleashed a missile of a shot down the middle of the goal which beat the keeper for pace and ended up in the net.
It was Monelle’s first goal of the season and was greeted with delight by his teammates who surrounded him to celebrate.
Ten minutes later the match was won for the home side when Christopher’s clever run into the box drew a foul from the panicking defence. He used his pace and direct running to get behind James Byrne, who when stretching for the ball tripped Christopher.
Jack Ball stepped up and dispatched the penalty firmly past Radovanovic to the delight of the home side and crowd.
Melksham continued to press and held on for a well fought victory which lifted them to 14th in the League and secured back to back League wins.
Melksham are next in action on Tuesday 17th December when they travel to North Devon for a game against Bideford.
Bideford are currently above them in the League and have a familiar face in goal, with Liam Kingston who started the season with Town now the North Devon club’s number one.