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Melksham Town friendlies bring bumper crowds

Bristol Rovers manager Darrell Clarke with joint presidents Mick Perrin and Dave Phillips

MELKSHAM Town welcomed top teams Bristol Rovers  and Swindon Town to Oakfields earlier this month and saw over 2,500 fans through the turnstiles. And despite disappointing results, there was nothing but praise for the football club.

In the first of two pre-season friendlies, League Two Bristol Rovers became the first professional side to play at the new ground, to a crowd of over 1,500. That was following by a clash with League Two Swindon Town when another 1,200+ fans turned out on a Tuesday night despite torrential rain.

Chairman Darren Perrin said, “The whole club should be so proud. To have over 2,500 supporters through the turnstiles is fantastic and a huge boost for the club financially.

“To host such big clubs raises the profile of the club and everyone involved in making both games a success should be immensely proud; to the groundsman who made the pitch look so fantastic, to the volunteers and of course the supporters, especially those who came on Tuesday – the weather was truly horrendous and it was a great effort from them to come out and support the club.”

Bristol Rovers manager Darrell Clarke brought his first team squad to Oakfields on Saturday 8th July and ran out 6-1 winners, with goals from Gaffney, Harrison, Bodin and Sercombe, with a penalty from Davidson being the home side’s consolation.

Rovers were impressed with the new stadium and hope that the pre-season fixture can happen again next year.

Before the match, Darrell Clarke officially opened the newly-named Presidents’ Suite and it was fitting that current joint-presidents, Mick Perrin and Dave Phillips, were there to witness the event before they sat themselves on the turnstile to collect the tickets and gate monies in true non-league style.

Three days later, Town welcomed League Two side Swindon Town, who also brought their first team squad for the friendly in front of a crowd of over 1,200+.

Again, the score wasn’t kind to Melksham with Swindon Town claiming a 5-0 win, but Swindon Town manager David Flitcroft heaped praise on the club and the facilities, describing Oakfields as ‘second-to-none’ in the non-league set-up.

The pre-season friendlies marked Kieran Baggs’ debut as manager and he said he was pleased with the team’s performance.

“To have pre-season friendlies against teams from League One and League Two was fantastic, but it was undeniably tough.

“I was able to play my strongest starting 11 for the first 45 minutes for both games which was brilliant and they were really in the game. You can then compare the fitness levels of our top team compared to the opposition who are playing full-time. In the second half you can make eight to ten changes to bring on some of the under 18 players and reserves to see where they are in comparison to the top team.

“The pre-season friendlies are a great opportunity to put into practice what we’ve been working on in training and it gets us ready for the start of the season on August 5th.”

Chairman Darren Perrin added, “A huge thank you to the Stainer family as well for letting us use their field for an overflow car park, which is most certainly needed.

“And finally to both visiting managers, Darrell Clarke and David Flitcroft, for their support. They couldn’t have done enough for us – they were taking selfies with the fans, signing autographs and praised the club for all its efforts.”