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MELKSHAM Town FC face a nail-biting end to the season as the fight for promotion goes down to the wire with just three more games to go.
With Street clear winners of the league, Town now face a battle with Willand Rovers and Bradford Town for the second promotion spot. Town currently sit in second place in the league after beating promotion rivals Bradford Town 1-0 at Oakfields in front of an 808-strong crowd on Monday.
Town are level on points with Bradford but have a game in hand, while Willand trail Town by seven points but have three games in hand. And just to add spice to the mix, Town travel to Willand for the final game of the season.
Manager Kieran Baggs says that the team need to remain focussed and take each of the next three games as they come.
“All we can do is take care of ourselves,” he said. “We need Willand to drop a few points to help us with our promotion hopes, but for the time being, they can remain the favourites
“I can’t look any further than the next match against Cadbury Heath. They have been playing well and have taken points from some good teams. So I’m focussing on that first – the boys need to put in a big performance.
“Some of the lads have been in similar situations before and are no strangers to the occasion. They can’t take the foot off the gas now, they need to turn up to each match with the right attitude.”
After losing to Cribbs and Street at the beginning of the month, Town have had to return to form to keep their promotion dreams alive. And the team has delivered, winning four games in a row.
First up was an away game to Wellington. Kieran said, “This was one of the most hectic games I have been involved in as a manger. We were down to 10 men and were 1-0 down only 1 minute and 20 seconds into the game! My keeper, Nick Evans, was sent off and Luke Ballinger replaced him in goal and the free kick resulted in a goal.
“At half-time we were still 1-0 down, but in the second half the lads rallied round and we started to fight back with a goal from Jon Davies. Gary Higdon then made it 2-1, but Wellington then drew level.
“It came down right to the wire when in the last few minutes Francois Allen put in an unbelievable performance to score an amazing goal, helping us to clinch the win. It was a great 3 points from a very tricky away game.”
Next up was another away game against Bridgwater Town. “This was a brilliant performance in a very tough game,” said Kieran. “Bridgwater are a great side, I have great admiration for their coaching team and what they have achieved. So to come away 3-0 was a great result.
“After half-time it was 0-0, but a penalty from Gary Higdon made it 1-0, which helped to change the way the lads were playing; they became more fluid. Another goal came from Jon Davies, and Higdon finished things off when he scored from a superb lob to make it 3-0.”
Days later, Town faced Bridgwater Town again at home. “It’s difficult to play back-to-back games like this. As manager you have to make changes to the team so you can surprise the opposition. So I mixed things up and had Rob Hobbs and Francois Allen as part of the starting 11, which helped keep things fresh.
“Mike Perrott headed in a goal from a corner late in the second half, securing a fantastic win and another mark on our clean sheet run.”
Next up was the dramatic derby match against local rivals Bradford Town. “Bradford was a massive game, there’s always been big rivalry between the two teams, but with both of us fighting for promotion, this was always going to be a crucial game.
“We had over 800 fans at Oakfields and they were a different class that night. They kicked every ball with us and you could hear them throughout the whole game cheering us on.
“It was Gary Higdon who scored us the winner in the second half, heading home a goal, and he and Jon Davies will probably get all the plaudits for the result, but overall it was a perfect performance by the whole team. Rob Brown in goal and the back four worked tirelessly throughout the match and that did not go unnoticed by me. Everyone gave it 100%, it was the perfect night for us.”
Next up for Town are Cadbury Heath and Wellington, followed by the last game of the season against promotion rivals Willand Rovers, which could decide which of the two teams is promoted.
“I used to get nervous as a player, but as a manager nerves don’t seem to get to me. Hopefully the lads will see me as a calming influence and feed off my positive energy,” said Kieran.
“Hopefully next time I talk to you (Melksham News) I’ll have some promotion news to celebrate! Fingers crossed.”