Melksham Town 4 - 0 Cadbury Heath
Monday 7th August 2017Melksham bounced back from their disappointing FA Cup defeat in Hampshire two days earlier to show the 354 strong crowd at the Oakfield Stadium they were up for the challenge in the league by easing past a resolute visiting Cadbury Heath on a drizzly Monday evening writes Kerry Miller.
Although the result was rarely in doubt, the Bristol side were in the game for the best part of an hour and caused problems themselves, despite top scorer Matt Huxley only being on the bench.
New Town boss Kieran Baggs introduced two new signings in full back Mark Cooper and midfielder Chris Allen, both local lads on dual affiliation with Chippenham Town and both settled after a spell when Cadbury Heath could have taken the lead when Ali Bamford released Simon McElroy who went close. Cooper was getting forward and into good positions as Town began to link up well on the perfect pitch, made slick by persistent drizzle, and he was unlucky when his 20 yard effort was inches wide.
On 20 minutes Melksham were forced to reshuffle when Dave Thompson was helped off with a painful looking leg injury, but it worked in their favour as Luke Belllinger came on and was influential in a midfield role which Heath struggled to contain. They somehow escaped from a huge scramble when the ball was twice cleared off the line but the reprieve was short lived, as midway through the half Jake Brown’s pace took him into the box and Rob Scott’s trip brought an inevitable penalty, which Gary Higdon despatched.
The visitors had arrived with a good following and they watched on as from the best move of the half McElroy and the returning Sacha Tong broke quickly and exchanged passes with the former just wide with a sliding effort which proved to be the last of the half.
With the rain continuing but with a stunning backdrop of a bright red sky in the distance Melksham stepped up the pace after the break and Heath struggled to cope, as Ballinger’s strength and passing dominated proceedings and after Higson set up Dam Demkiv who shot wide, it was 2-0 and effectively game over as Warren Maidment nodded in a corner on 53 minutes.
Again Cadbury Heath would not lay down and George Boon was just wide with a left foot effort but on the hour they were undone by another corner which Ballinger bundled in off the post to make it 3-0. Heath keeper Dan Worton was having a busy night and impressed five minutes later to keep out a Demkiv effort and he brought a round of applause soon after going full length to keep out Cooper’s long range strike. Heath sent on Huxley alongside McElroy, who had a free-kick saved by Dan Worton while home sub Dan Pring was also introduced and with his first touch he nodded just wide after more good work from Ballinger.
Ballinger was enjoying himself and crashed a shot against the post but with seconds left in the next attack Demkiv broke clear and smashed in the fourth to put the final touch to a comprehensive victory.
Cadbury Heath showed why they enjoyed a fine FA Cup win themselves on Saturday in the local derby with Longwell Green Sports, Tong and McElroy hitting doubles to set up a mouth watering home clash with Southern League Yate Town, and will be looking for three points against Bridport on Saturday.
Meanwhile Town go top of the league after what was the first league match of the campaign and will be hoping to stay there with a visit to Hallen on Saturday and another home match, against Odd Down, next Monday.
I believe the league will be very tight this season as a lot of clubs have invested and some very good players have signed on
Darren Perrin is enjoying life at Oakfields Stadium, having swapped his manager’s role with one of full-time commercial manager and chairman at the impressive new complex, opened ten months ago. It is a million miles away from their much loved town centre home at the Conigre and is perfectly set up for a push towards Southern League football, being set in huge acreage on the edge of a new housing complex which is bound to attract new support going forward.
Perrin is naturally excited at the coming prospects but is under no illusions as to the job in hand."It certainly was a big challenge when we moved here and I was not aware of the size of the size of the job but it is exciting. At the Conigre we had one pitch which the council cut but now we have 12 which we tend ourselves"
Town were at the Conigre for almost 100 years and many were sad to see the old place go as it was one of the few classic town centre grounds which had matured but it was never going to see Southern League football. With a small wooden clubhouse and ancient dressing rooms, it was one for the purists, but Perrin added, "Now we have six dressing rooms and four referee’s rooms and at first there were teething problems but the support we have had from sponsors over the past year has been remarkable, helping us get where we are."
Certainly the pitch surrounds are alive with advertising boards and the facility has shown everyone how ambitious the club is although Perrin added: “We are very aware of the difficulties which lie ahead but we have gone close in the league for three years running and, much as we love the Western League, Southern League is naturally our aim, however long it takes us.
"I believe the league will be very tight this season as a lot of clubs have invested and some very good players have signed on and, I am hoping there won’t be any of the 8-0 and 9-0 scorelines which do nobody any good."
The new management team is 28 year old Keiran Baggs, who played most of his football in the Western League for Bradford Town and Larkhall Athletic before managing Trowbridge Town to the Wiltshire League title and he is assisted by his father Micky Baggs, and Luke Ballinger who is also a crucial part of the playing squad.
What has been achieved so far at Oakfields has been underpinned by the club’s benefactors, including recycling company TMR, who sponsor all 580 players through the age groups incluing some 49 youth teams, and AL King Roofing, who Perrin says "have been magnificent over the years, providing kits and track suits".
Others including Lock and Key, Knorr-Bremse and DJ Bewley, funeral directors, are all prominent at the ground which is lovingly prepared by voluntary groundsman Paul Brickley, who Perrin describes as 'fantastic'.
On the pitch for the new campaign Baggs has signed Mark Cooper and Chris Allen on dual forms from Chippenham Town, winger Jake Brown from Wells City and Alex Grimshaw from Paulton Rovers, while Ben Pring has joined from Chippenham Park alongside Dan Demkiv, who returns from Cirencester.
It looks all set for another exciting season at Oakfields and with crowds already at the 350 mark on Monday nights there are good times ahead for Melksham Town Football Club.