Slimbridge AFC 2 –4 Melksham Town
Match report by Rich Nelsen
Photography by James Kemish and Louis Irons
These two clubs last met on the opening day of the season on a hot summers afternoon in August. On that occasion they shared nine goals with Melksham running out winners 6 – 3.
Since then both clubs have established themselves towards the top end of the table although taking slightly different routes to get there. Slimbridge after the opening day defeat became one of the form teams in the league taking notable scalps and becoming a genuine play off contenders with a series of impressive wins.
Melksham meanwhile showed early promise but with a host of new faces didn’t fully kick into gear until late October. It is safe to say that Richard Fey’s team are now travelling at an impressive rate and direction.
Freshly crowned as the BetVictor Southern League One South team of the month for December, Melksham were keen to stretch their winning run to seven games on the bounce against a Slimbridge team sat just above them in the table at the start of play.
Melksham were able to name an unchanged starting eleven with the only change being on the bench where new signing Steve Murray replaced Nick Evans. Murray who arrived this week from Bridgwater Town is a player familiar to Melksham fans as he has terrorised Western and Southern League defences over the last few years.
Slimbridge had lost had lost the impressive Ryan Beckinsale this week, with the young attacker joining Tiverton Town after a number of impressive appearances for the Swans, and had to shuffle their pack slightly.
The game kicked off in damp and blustery conditions with Melksham shooting towards the clubhouse end and against the wind. Melksham looked to pen Slimbridge into their own half and both teams had possession in the opening few minutes as they got a feel for the ball and how the pitch would play.
The opening chance resulted in the first goal after only 4 minutes. Jack Ball took control of the ball on the right hand side and managed to shield it well before twisting into the penalty area. He seemed to have plenty of attention from the defending men in blue but slipped the ball through for Phil Ormrod. Ormrod took the ball and dispatched it into the Slimbridge goal from around 12 yards out past Lewis Adams. It was a fierce finish from him which left Adams with no chance.
Slimbridge re grouped immediately and looked to get back on terms, the lively James Spruce on the right wing found space and delivered a dipping cross which narrowly missed the onrushing attackers. Slimbridge looked to be getting to grips with the conditions when they were struck with a another slick Melksham goal.
Jake Mawford who had started on the left for Melksham controlled the ball in the centre and drifted to his left making room for a shot. He then struck a left footed drive from 20 yards past the left hand of Adams and Melksham were two nil up.
Slimbridge needed a response and they seemed to get one as Dion Chambers looked to direct proceedings from central midfield. He played a number of incisive balls towards the Melksham goal with the willing runs of Myron Turner, Sol Wanjau-Smith and Adam Price offering outlets. Despite this Will Christopher and Joe Romanski remained disciplined defending the wings well while also springing forward when the opportunity allowed.
Phil Ormrod was still posing a threat and after a quarter of an hour it was nearly three nil. Jack Ball again played in his strike partner and Ormrod’s right footed drive was deflected for a corner. The corner was cleared by Slimbridge as they looked to get a goal to get them back into the game.
The remainder of the half saw Slimbridge earn a number of corners but they were met by a green and grey wall as Dave Thompson, Josh Ford and Jamie Bartlett all made decent interventions when it seemed likely the Swans may get on the scoreboard. Thompson on one occasion late in the half bravely heading clear at the back post as he was clattered by the onrushing attacker.
As the half time whistle went it remained two nil to the visitors with the better finishing of Melksham separating the two evenly matched teams.
The rain began to fall more heavily as the second half kicked off. Melksham with the wind seemingly behind them looked to get control as the half got underway. Luke Ballinger got things off to a promising start as he controlled the ball around 25 yards out and looked to drive into the box, his heels were clipped and Melksham were awarded a free kick in a promising position.
Phil Ormrod stepped up and his curling effort struck the side stanchion narrowly missing the left hand corner of Adam’s goal. It would have been a superb goal but it remained two nil.
Slimbridge used their wide men as the game progressed with Spruce and Wanjau-Smith looking to get into the box and create chances. Albie Hopkins replaced Jake Mawford after around 60 minutes as Melksham freshened their midfield legs.
As Slimbridge pressed they looked dangerous without creating a load of chances, this changed in the 67th minute when they won a penalty. The referee had no hesitation and with an outstretched arm pointed at the spot.
Josh Ford was booked in the aftermath as there was a delay before Sol Wanjau-Smith was able to step up for his shot at goal. When he did he sent the ball into the net down the middle of the goal. This enlivened Slimbridge and as expected the momentum changed as they had their foothold. With their tails up they attacked again two minutes later with Wanjau-Smith breaking into the box from the left as Josh Ford closed him down.
The attacker tumbled to the floor and again the referee pointed at the spot. This had further impact as Ford was summonsed by the referee and shown a second yellow card, and subsequently sent off.
Wanjau-Smith again stepped up and confidently smashed the ball past Jamie Bartlett. It was two all with everything to play for.
Richard Fey made an immediate tactical change bringing on Ollie Webb for Luke Ballinger. It may have been expected that Melksham would aim to hold on for a point as Slimbridge sensed blood, but far from it. Melksham then brought on Steve Murray for his debut replacing the tireless Jack Ball.
Murray quickly set about his task showing good pace and positioning to get behind the tiring Swan’s defence and pose a very real threat for the ten men. He nearly scored a debut goal with the keeper saving well with his legs.
Jamie Bartlett was then forced into a fine save tipping over the bar to maintain the level score. Melksham withstood the attempts of Slimbridge and continued to look dangerous on the break.
In the 87th minute the ball was controlled by Will Christopher on the right hand side, he then delivered an inch perfect cross which split the defence and keeper apart. Phil Ormrod surged into the penalty box and dived to head the cross home. Melksham with their ten men had taken the lead.
Ormrod then completed a memorable hat-trick deep into stoppage time when he intercepted a misplaced defensive pass to slot past Lewis Adams and make it 4-2.
The Slimbridge players sank to the floor and realised the game was over as Ormrod and his team-mates celebrated their seventh League win in a row.