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MELKSHAM Town FC will miss out on promotion – and their first ever shot at playing in the Southern League – even if they win the Toolstation Premier League title.
The club is guaranteed a record-breaking season with a top-two finish, but even a league win will now be bittersweet in the knowledge that they can’t be promoted because of a delay in building work at their new ground at Woolmore Farm.
The discovery of protected great crested newts at the new site which have to be rehomed, means the ground will not be ready for next season.
Melksham Town appealed to the Football Association in the hope that they could still be promoted and use the existing Conigre ground, but the appeal came too late.
It’s brought heavy criticism from fans of the club who say if Wiltshire Council had let the club know about the newts earlier, then promotion could have been secured.
Currently, the Conigre does not meet Southern League standards but the small amount of work needed to bring it up to standard could have been completed in time if Wiltshire Council had given the club more notice.
Town are currently five points clear at the top of the Toolstation Premier League and only second placed Buckland Athletic can deny them the title. Town are on 72 points with two games to play with Buckland on 67 points with three games left. The two clubs meet in a title showdown this Saturday.
Club chairman Dave Wiltshire said, “I feel so disappointed for our players and our manager because they’ve been fantastic this season.
“We’ve tried hard for the promotion with the help of the FA, but it’s just not going to happen this year.
“We already have the highest league finish in our history, which is an amazing achievement, and if we can win the league it would be unbelievable and a great consolation. We’re currently in a two-horse race with Buckland Athletic and I think we deserve it.
“If we had known six months ago how well the team would do, maybe we would have done the necessary upgrades to the Conigre so we could be promoted this season, but it would only have been temporary as we still need a new ground.
“Hopefully the work will start on the new ground in a few weeks’ time and then come the season after next, we will have a fantastic new facility that even teams at a level above would be envious of.”
Melksham Town will have to recreate this season’s unprecedented success next year in order to get another shot at promotion, but Dave is confident they can continue to improve.
He continued, “I know our manager Darren Perrin will do everything he can to try and get us to a level of football worthy of that new facility, but we will keep doing it our way with local players from the area. We won’t throw money at it and we will carry on working as we have done because we know it works.”
Work on rehoming the newts began last week and should take no longer than a month.
TOWN are just one game away from taking the Toolstation Western Premier Division title as they face rivals Buckland Athletic this weekend.
If Melksham beat the second placed Devon side on Saturday they will win the Premier League title for the first time in history.
Both teams have lost only twice so far in 2015, but Melksham were defeated 3-1 at home last time the two met. If Melksham win this game they will have 75 points and be out of reach of the only other title competitors. If Melksham lose, Buckland could steal the top spot by winning all their remaining matches.
Melksham have already had a record breaking season, with a guaranteed second place; the highest finishing standing the club has had since it began.
Melksham Town FC will take on Buckland Athletic at Homers Heath in Newton Abbot on Saturday 25th April, kicking off at 3pm.