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Tues. 6th Nov. Southern League Challenge Cup
Melksham Town 0 Slimbridge AFC 4
Sat. 10th November. FA Trophy
Leiston 2 Melksham Town 1
Tues. 13th November. Wiltshire Senior Cup
Devizes Town 0 Melksham Town 1
Sat. 17th Nov. Evo-Stik Southern Div. One
Melksham Town 5 Street 3
MELKSHAM Town FC has faced heartbreak and triumph in the past fortnight, with defeats in two cup games, a win in the Wiltshire Senior Cup, and victory over old rivals in the Southern League.
First up for Town was Slimbridge AFC at home at the InfiLED Arena in the Southern League Challenge Cup. After previously beating them in the FA Trophy last month, it was the turn of Town to experience defeat, as Slimbridge walked away with a 4-0 win.
“It was one of those games that we didn’t need before a big trophy match,” said Town’s manager Kieran Baggs. “I rested about 8 or 9 of the main squad and gave some of the young guys a chance. I’m not one to prioritise, but the upcoming trophy game was an important one, and there were a few players one booking away from being banned, so I had to switch the team around.
“We had our chances, so the scoreline is a little harsh. But it was a poor performance compared to the level we have set ourselves this season. Overall it was a good opportunity for some of the reserves and under 18s to play – it was a harsh lesson for them, but hopefully they didn’t leave too discouraged.”
Next up was an away game to Leiston in the next round of the FA Trophy. “This was probably the furthest away draw possible for us,” said Kieran, “it was a five hour drive there and the same back! We went down missing a few of the squad, so a couple of the under 18s came in, and I was even on the bench myself!”
After trailing 2-0, a penalty by Town’s Jon Davies in the closing moments of the game took the scoreline to 2-1. But the squad were unable to claw back an equaliser.
“If we had scored earlier, and maybe had an extra five minutes, we could have put Leiston under some pressure and scored again, forcing a replay. A full strength side might have been able to cause an upset against a side in a higher league, but on the day, we didn’t have the extra bit of quality that we needed. We battled hard, the conditions were windy, and it was a great result with a light squad.”
Days later Town faced old rivals Devizes Town in the Wiltshire Senior Cup, this time walking away the victors with a 1-0 win.
Kieran said, “This was the sort of game you want after a long trip like the one to Leiston – and it was good to get the team back out there after the FA Trophy defeat. Devizes are in the league below us, so it was a chance to get some minutes in for lads that had been away and blow away some of the cobwebs.
“Devizes had their chances and kept us on our toes – there’s a lot of history between Melksham and Devizes, it’s an old derby match and we always enjoy playing them.”
Town’s only goal came from an own goal by a Devizes defender – deflecting a shot by Luke Ballinger who had picked up a cross from Jon Davies.
“To keep a clean sheet and get the win made it a pleasing night,” said Kieran. “The performance was not where I wanted it to be, but it helped blow away the cobwebs and prepares the lads for the big match against Street in the league. Hopefully we can jump back in and cause an upset.”
Melksham will face Swindon Supermarine in the quarter-finals of the Wiltshire Senior Cup. A date for the match is yet to be confirmed, but it is expected to be played in the week beginning Saturday 8th December.
Next, Town returned to the Southern League last weekend to face old rivals Street at home at the InfiLED Arena.
“They are old friends who pipped us to the title last season and gave us a lesson last time we met,” said Kieran, “so I made sure that we were prepared, especially the boys who are still with me from last year – we owed them one!
“In the first 10 minutes things didn’t quite go to plan, we conceded a goal on the first three minutes and we had to substitute keeper Darren Behcet for Nick Evans because of injury. Then Jon Davies took a knock and had to be substituted also.
“But the lads reacted superbly to the challenge and by half-time we were up 3-1, thanks to two goals from Neikell Plummer and one from Rob Hobbs.
“From what Luke (Ballinger) and I said at half-time, the lads knew that Street had nothing to lose and would try to get back into the game. Our goalkeeper, Nick Evans, was not match fit, so was at risk from long range efforts by Street.
“Street made it 3-2, but we stayed disciplined and played defensively and in quick succession we made it 5-2, with goals from Rob Hobbs and Brad Norris. Unfortunately Street scored again in the 89th minute with a 35-yard strike making it 5-3, but there was nothing that could have been done about that.
“The result makes it sound a lot closer than it should have been. But it was a great day, with a great crowd – all the fans got behind us. It was probably one of my favourite victories as Melksham’s manager. It was our first meeting with Street since they beat us in the league, so it was nice to get revenge.
“New signing Reece Rusher made his debut against Street. He’s from Winchester City, which shows the calibre of Melksham – taking players off rival teams. He had a hand in the first goal, so it was a great debut for him.
“The win keeps us chasing the play-off pack. There’s still a long way to go, but the boys have been superb, no-one expected us to be where we are right now in the league. We have nothing to lose and need to keep playing with no fear.”