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AFTER their disappointing display against Bishop Sutton on Saturday, Town bounced back with a devastating second half display as they put Hengrove Athletic to the sword, with an exhibition of rapier-like clinical finishing.
Manager Darren Perrin made several changes from Saturday’s game. Ian Jeffery was unavailable due to a family commitment, whilst Syed Ibrahim, David Thompson and Dan Kovacs dropped to the bench. In came Youth Team player Alex Hillier for his first start of the season, Dean Flockton, Nick Ridout and Gary Higdon.
Town started the game in positive fashion, applying early pressure. From a long throw, Ryan Bennett headed the ball on from which Gary Higdon directed his header wide. The same player then had a header from Shaun Benison’s corner held by Hengrove keeper Aiden Hill.
Town continued to press for the opening goal with Ben Thomson prominent, with surging runs at the visitors’ defence only stopped by the concession of free kicks on two occasions, which Town were unable to take advantage of. Whilst Town were dominating possession, Hengrove broke away twice as the game neared the half-hour mark. Tom Drewett, plunging low to his left, pushed a low shot away; this was followed by Andy Nash’s low cross, across the six yard box, which an onrushing Hengrove player just failed to make contact.
Town returned to the attack after this narrow escape. Gary Higdon failed to control the ball when well placed, and was then denied by a last-ditch tackle by Hengrove skipper Scott Lewis. Leigh Roger had a shot saved by keeper Aiden Hill, whilst Ben Thomson’s effort was blocked as Town sought to break the deadlock, with half-time looming.
A goalless first half then, and the home support, wondering if Town could make their first half superiority count. Their fears were to be allayed in one of the most dramatic second halfs seen at The ‘Conigre’ in a long time.
From the off, Town meant business. They forced three early corners, the last of which was not cleared. Leigh Rogers crossed and Ben Thomson headed home on 48 minutes. On 53 minutes Ben Thomson’s fierce shot was tipped over by keeper Aiden Hill for a corner. From this Ryan Bennett’s header was parried by the keeper, only to the feet of Gary Higdon, who slammed the ball home. Dan Kovacs replaced Nick Ridout after 61 minutes and he was soon in the thick of the action and had an effort blocked by the keeper. Town’s third goal arrived after 71 minutes. After a flowing move Shaun Benison played in Leigh Rogers. His first effort was parried by the keeper but from an acute angle, he placed the rebound home. Will Thomson and Dave Thompson replaced Stuart Greener and Ryan Bennett. On 77 minutes Gary Higdon’s cross found Dan Kovacs 12 yards out. He turned his marker inside out and fired a fierce strike into the roof of the net to make it 4-0.
Four minutes later it was 5-0. Will Thomson was fouled, Leigh Rogers floated his free kick into the box and Gary Higdon was on hand to glance a header into the bottom corner of the net. Town made it 6-0 after 85 minutes, when good approach work involving another of Town’s promising young players Will Thomson, led to Gary Higdon smashing a fierce shot past keeper Aiden Hill. In doing so, he scored his 27th goal of the season and registered the 9th hat-trick of his Melksham Town career. In the dying moments, Town had a great chance to make it 7-0, but Shaun Benison screwed his effort wide. Shortly afterwards the final whistle sounded, leaving the home supporters salivating over the second half performance.
Encouraging once again was the performance of Alex Hillier who with the other youngsters introduced by Darren Perrin, showed a great deal of promise for the future, in line with Town’s ethos of using home-grown talent.