Melksham Town 2 - 0 Bridgwater Town
FA Vase Third Round (Replay)
Monday 4th December 2017
Goals at the start and finish by the game’s best player, Luke Ballinger, ensured Melksham Town would entertain Southern Counties East side Crowborough Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Vase early next year as they finally got past a determined Bridgwater Town on Monday night at Oakfields, writes Kerry Miller.
It was a far from routine victory as Dave Pearse’s side battled to the end and their travelling support knew they were still in the game until just before the end when Ballinger broke from deep and crashed the clincher past Jake Viney to seal the deal.
Both teams made changes with Dan Demkiv returning from injury and Tyler Sibbick warming the bench while Syd Camper partnered Pearse and Saturday’s hero Ryan Burrows up front for the Robins.
Once again Melksham caught Bridgwater cold as they did on Saturday and they went ahead with many still shuffling out of the Sky Bar. The first attack brought a free-kick wide out on the left and Ballinger’s curling effort evaded everyone and nestled in the far corner with the visiting defence all watching each other. It was the Ballinger show for a while as he then got behind the back line to crash another shot off the bar before shooting wide from distance as Bridgy’s defence struggled to settle and contain his pace and strength. The visitors finally escaped to put some pressure of their own on the home defence and Pearse went down under the challenge of keeper Rob Brown but the appeals for a spot-kick were a touch optimistic. It gave the side some impetus and they began to match Melksham, both teams playing some nice football on the immaculate surface and when Burrows effort was not cleared Harry Horton brought a fine save out of Brown.
The first half was end to end and Ballinger volleyed over before Melksham almost doubled their lead as a free-kick over the top saw Gary Higson all but connect but Bridgy survived and a breakaway involving Dave Thorne and Jack Jenkins ended with Pearse’s header dropping on to the roof of the goal with the last move of the half.
Ballinger was again busy as he volleyed wide following an effort from Mike Perrott and Demkiv almost marked his return to the side with a goal as he shrugged off the attentions of a defender before drilling a cross shot inches wide. The game almost changed on a moment of pure farce just before the hour mark when Jake Viney got into a tangle with Josh White near the touchline and Higson took advantage and rolled the ball towards the goal but it hit the post and rebounded agonisingly wide off the heels of a backpedalling defender for an incredible escape.
Sadly for Bridgwater they couldn’t accept the let off as Pearse volleyed over and later Burrows twice blasted shots goalwards in the same attack, the second effort hitting Lee Davidson in the one place he didn’t want to be hit, poleaxing him and bringing the customary laughter rather than any words of sympathy.
Both benches threw on fresh legs with Lee Begg retiring with a nasty facial injury but it Ballinger who topped and tailed the performance as a Bridgwater attack broke down and within seconds he blasted an unstoppable drive past Viney to give his side a home tie in round four and keep the Wembley Stadium dream alive into the new year.