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Melksham Town 2 Highmoor 1 (AET) – FA Vase First Round, Sat. 1st Nov.

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The Town welcomed the Reading based current leaders of the Hellenic  Premier League and came out 2-1 winners in the FA Vase tie after a hard fought and incident packed game which went to extra time.

The first was a fairly edgy affair although the Town created a few chances which they would have expected to score from.

The first half chance of the game came after eight minutes when Town striker Dan Kovacs looping header cleared the keeper but he could not direct the effort on target. Kovacs was again at the centre of the action on 15 minutes when he latched onto Ben Thomson’s ball over the top and after chipping the ball over the oncoming keeper saw his effort drop narrowly over the bar.

On 34 minutes Kovacs headed wide from another Thomson cross when well placed and after Barnett retrieved the header and chipped in a good cross from the right Higdon headed over.

Just before the half time break Higdon found himself free on the six yard box but his header from Thomson’s corner missed the target and the interval was reached with the sides level at 0-0 with all to play for.

The second half started with a bang as Parker took advantage of a square Town defence and strode through to slide the ball past the  exposed Rob Brown in the Melksham goal to put the visitors 1-0 up.

This signalled a frenetic period in the game as the Town rolled their sleeves up to get a foothold back in the game whilst the Highmoor team looked to defend their lead.

On 50 minutes Highmoor picked up their second caution of the game for foul on Thomson and on the hour mark the Town got themselves back into the game when the referee deemed Kovacs was held down in the box and with guidance from his assistant awarded a penalty kick to the Town.

The decision infuriated the visitors to such an extent that central defender Gallimore was sent off for something said to the referee. After a delay Higdon showed composure by slamming home the penalty to bring the scores level at 1-1 much to the delight of The Conigre faithful.

Mid way through the second period Melksham introduced Dan Griffiths for Barnett and the visitors were again unlucky to see Parker’s 25 yard freekick clip the top of the bar and go behind. The Highmoor defence was coming under greater pressure and they picked up their third caution of the game on 72 minutes before Higdon headed the ball against the Highmoor bar after yet another corner on 73 minutes.

On 86 minutes Melksham’s Jeffery picked up a yellow card after being caught in possession and the full time whistle sounded with the teams still level at 1-1 and faced with 30 minutes extra time and the prospect of a replay in Reading on Monday if the game could not be settled.

Early in the first period of extra time the substituted player manager for Highmoor, Richardson, was sent to the stands after another difference of opinion with the officials, and this incident brought another caution for the Highmoor side, their 5th of the game.

On 95 minutes Higdon made a good run and cross down the Town left and his pull back was met by the on rushing Waylen but his first time effort went narrowly wide. However on 97 minutes the Town went 2-1 ahead thanks to a clever finish by Higdon who after picking up a long clearance from Jeffery rounded the keeper and from an acute angle swivelled and managed to turn the ball into the goal.

On 101 minutes Melksham’s Rogers was cautioned for pulling back a Highmoor midfielder and was therefore sent from the field of play for his second caution leaving both sides down to 10 men. Early in the second period of extra time Melksham’s Bennet became the third Town player to be cautioned as the game threatened to boil over. As the tension levels rose yet further on 115 minutes, Town manager Perrin was sent to the stand by the referee after becoming involved in some nonsense in the dugout. On 117 minutes the outstanding Town player in the game, central midfielder Will Stead,  ran through unopposed from the half way line and appeared to be taken out in the area just as he was about to shoot, but the referee deemed this not to a penalty much to the amazement of the Town supporters.

Minutes later the referee blew his whistle after a breathless 120 minutes of action, which signalled a 2-1 victory for the Town over a strong and spirited Highmoor Ibis side, and sets the Town up with yet another difficult FA Vase tie home to fellow Western League high flyers Slimbridge on Saturday 22nd November, and keeps the Wembley dream alive.

This Saturday sees the Town in cup action again when they host local rivals Trowbridge Town in the Wiltshire Senior Cup as they look to retain the trophy they have won for the last two seasons.

The Towns Reserves drew 1-1 away to FC Chippenham thanks to a goal from Sean Fordham, and retained their position at the top of the Wiltshire Premier League, whilst the A team won 8-0 against FC Trowbridge thanks to a four timer from Nick Ridout, 2 from Dan Moore and goals from Jordan Kirk and Tom Jones.

The Under 18s run out 6-0 winners over New College with two goals apiece from Harry Waylen and Callum Demkiv and goals from Warren Maidment and Dan Sibley.