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After completing their league campaign and securing fifth place in the league, Melksham extended their season for another week by eventually seeing off a spirited and depleted Cribbs side, to book a place in the Les Phillips semi-final on Saturday May 7th where they will meet Hengrove at The Conigre.
Melksham were certainly not at their best and the writing was on the wall after only three minutes when uncertainty in the back four saw Cribbs go 1-0 up, when Town keeper Rob Brown saw his clearance blocked, leaving an open goal for the homeside striker.
On 13 minutes the Town were handed an advantage when the referee dismissed Cribbs’ Brimson for an off- the-ball incident with the Town’s Mike Perrott.
Cribbs responded well and restricted Melksham to a couple of opportunities, firstly when Stradlings’ shot was well saved by the home keeper on 31 minutes and latterly, when both Hulbert and Higdon just failed to get on the end of a Ballinger cross, but the half-time interval saw a frustrated Melksham behind by 1-0 against Cribbs who had deserved their lead.
The second period got off to a controversial start as Brown’s long clearance was flicked on by Higdon into the path of Hulbert, who was racing into the area, only to tumble over under the challenge of Evans, with the referee deeming the challenge worthy of a penalty; and to add insult to injury, sending off the player, leaving Cribbs to play the remainder of the match with nine men despite vociferous appeals that the penalty should not have stood.
Higdon slotted home the resultant penalty to level the scores at 1-1.
Despite the numerical advantage, Cribbs battled well, although Higdon and Dave Thompson both headed just wide with twenty minutes to play and Higdon saw his long range effort go just over.
On 81 minutes a Ballinger cross fell to the feet of Hulbert, but his close range effort was saved by the home keeper and on 82 minutes, Melksham introduced Dan Kovacs for Hulbert and the substitute was to have a major say in the outcome of the tie.
The full-time whistle saw the sides locked at 1-1 with Cribbs no doubt looking to hold out for a penalty shoot-out and the Town become more and more frustrated at their lack of a killer goal.
The first period of extra time produced no further goals despite a couple of threatening moments at both ends before in the opening minutes of the second period, Higdon saw his header from a Ballinger cross well-saved by the home keeper, but the alert Kovacs stabbed the ball over the line to put Melksham 2-1 ahead.
Veteran Adam Young was brought on to replace the injured Ben Thomson, before Higdon was flattened when through on goal by the Cribbs substitute, only for the referee to waive play on, no doubt for fear of further upsetting the homeside.
As Cribbs’ brave effort wilted after a spirited showing, Melksham wrapped the game up when a strong run from the centre of the field by Perrott saw him lay the ball back to Kovacs, who made it 3-1, before Kovacs scored the Town’s fourth and his hat trick, when receiving a Jeffery pass before driving into the area and tucking the ball home to make the final score 4-1 to Melksham and harsh on the homeside who will look at the key moment after 50 minutes and wonder what might have been.
Meanwhile Melksham will return to the The Conigre for one last time when they host the semi-final, knowing they will have to up their performance if they wish to make the final of the cup on Saturday 14th May at Welton against the winners of the Willand v Buckand semi-final.
The club’s end of season awards saw the following players take the honours :
Clubman of The Year. Geoffrey Williams
First Team Manager’s Player of The Year, Gary Higdon
First Team Supporters’ Player. Ben Thomson
First Team Players’ Player, Ryan Bennett
Reserves Managers Player of The Year, Jordan Evans
Reserves Supporters’ Player of Year, Tom Robinson
Reserves Players’ Player of The Year, Jordan Evans
A Team Manager’s Player of The Year, Brad Butcher and Jake Sainsbury
A Team Supporters’ Player of The Year, Tom Mack
A Team Players’ Player of The Year, Danny Harrison
Youth Team Manager’s Player of The Year, Alex Churchyard
Youth Team Supporters’ Player of The Year, Tom Webb
Youth Team Players’ Player of the The Year, Warren Maidment
Young Player of the Year. Warren Maidment
Top Goalscorer First Team, Gary Higdon.
Mark Jeffery, Secretary, Melksham Town FC