Melksham Town 3 - 0 Odd Down (Bath)
Monday 15th August 2017With 25 minutes to go of what was an old fashioned blood and thunder Western League derby, Odd Down manager Ray Johnson threw on Kane Simpson up front as his side had weathered a ferocious home storm and he possibly saw the chance of snatching a win against the run of play writes Kerry Miller.
Some substitutions are inspired and lead to all kinds of joy – but others aren’t and this came into the latter category as Simpson was shown a straight red within 30 seconds for an off the ball clash with Chris Allen, and with him went the match and the three points. Town immediately stepped on the gas once more and Gary Higdon helped himself to a classic seven minute hat-trick which looked so unlikely ten minutes earlier and they cemented their early place at the top of the Premier Division.
The visitors showed from the start they were not going to be rolled over and evergreen Dave Gould’s agricultural second minute challenge could easily have brought him a caution, but Oxford referee Edward Turner decided against, which seemed to earn him 90 minutes of earache, when stronger action should have prevailed.
In total Melksham stacked up 18 efforts on goal starting with Warren Maidment nodding a free-kick over and Luke Ballinger setting up Jake Brown, whose shot was deflected for a corner which Higdon volleyed high and hopeful. Odd Down were playing their part but the match was slowly turning into a niggly whingefest, not helped when Asa White went in late on home keeper Rob Brown to earn a booking. Gould then mistimed another challenge and again escaped with a talking too, which he was unlikely to hear as virtually every other player had something to say to referee Turner.
Brown set up the excellent Ben Thomson who missed the target before a needless shove by Mark Cooper at the other end just outside the area gave Odd Down a rare chance but Gould’s shot was just too high. Town should have gone ahead just short of the half hour when Allen’s free-kick was fumbled into the path of Brown, who was denied point blank by the increasingly busy Ed Baldy.
Higdon then found Mike Perrott who thundered a drive against the bar, then after Jon Sage tested Brown from distance, Allen went through Gould and was also very fortunate to escape a yellow card with the referee equally fortunate not to have lost the game as the whingeing was racked up a notch.
Higdon and Ballinger were both off target before Brown’s cross somehow evaded everybody then moments before the break of a breathless half Gould finally found his way into the book for another late challenge on Perrott. Town were determined to break the deadlock and both Allen and Cooper tested Baldy from long range but it was not to be and it remained goalless.
It was the same story in the second half as Melksham went for the jugular and Higdon and Perrott combined for Thomson to volley wide before White flattened Ballinger and with the crowd expecting a second yellow, there was another last chance handed to him, which may have inadvertently caused Simpson’s downfall soon after. Ballinger was close to converting Maidment’s header before Steve Casey went into the book and from the free-kick Odd Down almost took the lead when Kye Simpson was given room in the area and, when he was crowded out, Ash McGrane hit the side netting and the chance was gone.
Kane Simpson was introduced and within seconds he had clashed off the ball with Allen and referee Turner flashed a straight red to alter the whole aspect of the tie. Town almost immediately gained a corner and when it came out to Higdon, his first touch was good, taking him into space to crash a shot home from 15 yards and give his side a deserved lead. Higdon then had a nodded effort saved for a corner and, again it was not cleared leaving Thomson to sling over a perfect far post cross which found Higdon stooping to nod home the second from close range. Odd Down were shell shocked and from the kick off the ball was worked by Thomson to the flying Ballinger, whose wicked cross was smashed home by the unstoppable Higdon for his seven minute hat-trick and his sixth goal in his first three league games.
It could have been 4-0 as substitute Jake Hiscocks and Cooper had close efforts but it would have been harsh on Odd Down who played their part in a classic encounter.
Melksham now have an eight day break as their Saturday game with Longwell Green has been rescheduled and they now travel to Chipping Sodbury Town on Tuesday. Odd Down prepare to entertain Southern League Mangotsfield United in the FA Cup.
Buckland Athletic and Bradford Town are both in action on Tuesday and both will be looking to keep a one hundred per cent record and possibly topple Town from the top perch.