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Weds. 25th April. Toolstation Premier Div
Cadbury Heath 0-3 Melksham Town
Sat. 28th April. Toolstation Premier Div
Melksham Town 2-1 Wellington
Weds. 2nd May. Toolstation Premier Div
Willand Rovers 1-3 Melksham Town
MELKSHAM Town FC has ended the season on a high, with seven back-to-back wins securing promotion for the club into the Southern League – the highest level of football the team has played at in its history.
Manager Kieran Baggs has praised the team for their focus and determination, and for one of the best performances of the year against promotion rivals, Willand Rovers, in their final game of the season.
Prior to that, away against Cadbury Heath. Kieran said, “This was a really important mid-week game that we had to win. Cadbury Heath had been doing poorly at the bottom of the league, but we still had to turn up, be professional and remain focussed.
“With goals from Luke Ballinger, Jamie Lyons and Robert Hobbs, we were up 3-0 at half-time, which stayed the same in the second. It was a really solid performance and a crucial three points.”
Next up was Wellington. “This was the last home game of the season and the support we had from the fans was incredible,” said Kieran. “To have over 400 supporters in the grounds was a massive advantage for us.
“We were down 1-0 at half-time. But we remained focussed and stayed patient, waiting for our opportunity. Once Gary Higdon scored the penalty after the foul on Demkiv, it was only a matter of time before we scored the second goal, which came from Higdon again. Despite the early scare, it was a comfortable three points for us.”
The final game of the season was away to promotion rivals Willand Rovers, where a 3-1 win for Town pushed Willand out of the race. “This was the promotion decider for us, so we almost treated this like a cup final. If we won, it would mean we would likely be promoted, as Buckland Athletic – although they could catch us on points – the large goal difference meant it was unlikely they could challenge us.
“For me, this was one of the performances of the season. Beating Bradford Town at Oakfields was a top performance, and this Willand game matched that. Every single player was fantastic.
“Early on we went 1-0 down, but the fans helped turn that around. We had over 100 fans who had travelled down to near Exeter to support us; it was exceptional. To turn up like that, well the lads really appreciated it, and it gave us that extra push. To see all those black and yellow scarves alongside the pitch, that is a massive thing that no other club at our level could achieve. So massive credit to the fans.”
Two goals from Luke Ballinger in the first half and a last minute penalty from Gary Higdon in the second, pushed Town to victory and their seventh win in a row.
The goal from striker Gary Higdon was his 40th league goal of the season, making him the top scorer of the Toolstation Premier Division and further increased his record-breaking goal tally for the club to 266.
Kieran said, “This came as no surprise, he just kept scoring goals! To score 40 league goals; well he deserves all the credit. I look forward to seeing him taking on the challenge of playing to a higher level next season.”
Following the win against Willand, Town finished the season with 84 points and second in the league. Promotion was confirmed when Buckland Athletic, who could draw level on points but needed to make up a goal difference of 30, lost to Hengrove Athletic.
The promotion brings to an end an action-packed year for the club, that also saw them make history by reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Vase.
Kieran said, “My personal highlight of the season is achieving the double over local rivals Bradford Town. It was a real sweet feeling to beat them at home and away, and to also pip them to promotion too.
“The hard work starts again now as we face one of our biggest challenges, going into the Southern League. We’ll need to sit down and focus on our pre-season fixtures, put together a top-notch training programme, and look for new signings to help strengthen the team. It’s a very exciting time.”