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Tues. 26th March. Evo-Stik Southern Div. One Cinderford Town 1-0 Melksham Town
Sat. 30th March. Town 0-3 AFC Totton
Sat. 6th April. Street 3-1 Melksham Town
TOWN’S hopes of qualifying for the Southern League play-offs have come to an end after three back-to-back defeats.
Town now sit in ninth place in the league, with four games left of the season to play.
Town’s run of bad luck started with a 1-0 loss to Cinderford Town. Soon after, on the day before their next match against AFC Totton, manager Kieran Baggs made the shock announcement that he was resigning from the club, blaming a breakdown in relations with members of the committee for his reason for leaving (see story on the front page).
Following the news, a string of key Town players then announced that they were also leaving the club, leaving stand-in manager, Luke Ballinger, with the job of scrapping together a team for their upcoming match.
Town were forced to play a team of 10 men, made up of players from their under 18s and reserve teams, who despite their best efforts, lost 3-0. Their next match, a 3-1 loss to Street, put an end to their play-off dreams.
However, stand-in manager Luke has praised the efforts of the young players who have stepped in to carry the team on for the rest of the season – earmarking them as the potential future of the club.
About the away game against play-off rivals Cinderford Town, which was Kieran’s last game as Town’s manager, Luke said, “Overall it was a very even game. We had a few chances, but we didn’t take them. They had one chance, and they took it. The first half was probably very entertaining to watch – it was definitely a good game to play and be involved in.”
Next up, Town faced AFC Totton at home with a team of 10, with many players having no experience of playing at Southern League standard.
Luke said, “The boys that did play were outstanding in their attitude and approach to the game.
“Totton beat us with three set pieces, but really our loss was down to inexperience. Defensively we were quite strong and we had a couple of chances to score, but it is what it is.”
At the end of the match, which had an attendance of 404 – the highest in the Southern League Division One that day – Town supporters gave the ten men a standing ovation.
“People realised the situation we were in,” said Luke, “The boys gave it everything they had and the praise was well deserved. But it was a weird feeling getting a standing ovation after losing 3-0, but the boys had put a good shift in.
“Overall, it was a reasonably good performance with the resources and the players we had available.”
At the weekend, Town played away to Street, who have recently announced that they will be resigning from the Southern League at the end of the season because of a lack of volunteers to fill vital roles at the club. Town lost 3-1.
“It was a good game,” said Luke. “ Street are one of the best sides we have played at home this season – we beat them 5-3.
“It started well, Gary Higdon could’ve scored and I had a chance as well. But maybe inexperience showed and we lost our way at times in the match – but the lads will keep learning with time.
“I managed to score before half-time, making it 1-1, which was a fair reflection of the game so far. But unfortunately we didn’t start the second half well and for the first 15 minutes we were all over the place – balls were not being cleared as far as they should’ve been.
“I then made some changes and brought on Will Thomson and Jack Baker who made a real difference. They were very positive and you could tell that they enjoyed playing for Melksham. They will have a big part to play in the club if they continue. At the end of the game we had five under 18 lads playing for us, which shows you where we are at the moment. So it was a decent result.”
Looking ahead to the last four matches of the season, Luke said, “The boys who recently joined the team have now settled into the squad and will play for the remainder of the season. We have a hard few games coming up, but just need to get through each game .
“The team can enjoy the matches and play without any pressure as we can’t go up, and we can’t go down. For the lads who have not played at this level before, this is a chance to play and gain experience.
“We have two tough home games – Winchester City and Cirencester Town – so we’ll see what happens. The support has been excellent recently – and indeed for the whole season – so keep supporting the boys, they deserve it!”