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Willand Rovers 1-2 Melksham Town – Toolstation Western League, Saturday 2nd May

The Town brought down the curtain on an historic season with a win in their final game of the season that saw them take the Toolstation Western League title for the first time in their 139 year history.

Melksham travelled down to their Devon based opponents buoyed by the support of a strong travelling contingent with the knowledge that anything other than three points would need them relying on the outcome of matches involving  nearest challengers Buckland Athletic .

In the only change from last week’s starting line up Ricky Hulbert came into the side for the unavailable Dan Kovacs and immediately linked up well with leading marksman Gary Higdon as the Town started brightly.

Melksham nearly got off to a sensational start when after only two minutes Ben Thomson’s low drive bounced over home keeper Parkin and hit the inside of the post before being cleared away.

With the home defence keeping a high line Melksham were able to exploit the space in behind the back four, and on five minutes Higdon dragged a left foot effort wide when finding himself in space inside the area, whilst on 10 minutes Hulbert’s pace set him free with only the keeper to beat, but Parkin produced an outstanding save low to his left to keep out the strikers goal bound effort, and minutes later the striker lobbed an effort just over the bar.

However on 20 minutes Melksham got just reward for their high tempo start and deservedly went ahead. A raking pass from youngster Will Stead found Thomson out on the left and after he had cut inside his marker and seen his effort saved, the ball looped in the air where Shaun Bennison reacted quickest to nod the ball home to the delight of all the Town supporters and players.

Melksham continued to press and Hulbert and Thomson combined well on 35 minutes with the latter drilling his effort just wide. On 39 minutes Melksham forged further ahead when skipper Dave Thompson threaded pass found Higdon, and faced with only the keeper to beat the striker calmly slid the ball home to score his 35th goal of season in all competitions and put Melksham 2-0 ahead.

On 41 minutes the impressive Hulbert again found himself clear of the back line and was unlucky to see his lob from an acute angle clip the top of the bar and go behind as Melksham looked to put the game out of reach.

Just before the interval Willand’s Stamp saw his effort go over the bar without unduly worrying Rob Brown in the Town goal, and the visitors went into the interval 2-0 ahead and seemingly well on the way to the result they desperately  wanted, hoping not to rue missed opportunities.

The second period began with a much improved showing from the home side with the Town defence having to soak up some pressure and with some of the Town players visibly tiring after their mighty effort in the first period.

Midway through the second period the home side got themselves back into the game when Bath reacted quickest to knock the ball home after Brown had produced a good save to deny Stamp, and the game and title was back in the melting pot. As the half wore on Melksham were forced to sit back and hit the homeside on the break and Thomson went close for Melksham on 78 minutes on a foray into Willand territory.

Leigh Rogers replaced the excellent Stead on 71 minutes and on 85 minutes Higdon found himself through on goal with the keeper to beat and after rounding the keeper he saw his left foot effort hit the post and be cleared away.

As the game  rolled into added time Ballinger replaced Hulbert and without further mishap the referee’s whistle signalled a fine 2-1 victory for the Town and the deserved title.

The title was secured after an unbeaten 12 game run from mid February which featured no less than eight consecutive away games and was celebrated by all long into the night.

The Town’s reserves made it a day to remember too when running out comprehensive 3-0 victors over Ludgershall in the Corsham Print Senior Cup Final, thanks to goals from Menghini, Ridout and Barnett, and with two games to play hope to secure a runners up spot in the Wiltshire League to cap what would be a momentous season for the club.

The club will be holding their end of season presentation at the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Friday 29th May and anybody wanting to attend are asked to contact the club to secure a ticket for what promises to be a big celebration.