Melksham Town 2 - 1 Crowborough Athletic
Saturday 6th January 2018
Melksham survived two penalties and the loss of influential Luke Ballinger after half an hour to come through against the odds at a breezy and noisy Oakfields on Saturday to take their place in the last 16 of this year’s FA Vase writes Kerry Miller.
Stunning second half goals from Mike Perrott, in his 200th game for the club and substitute Ryan Bole were enough to see off an impressive Crowborough side who in the end were left to rue a penalty miss five minutes before the break. Lying second in the Southern Counties East, the visitors showed why as they dominated large parts of the first half and were finding far too much space out wide in front of a superb crowd of 686. Having weathered the opening storm where Zac Attwood, Henry Muggeridge and Sam Carrington all went close, Town gained a foothold with top scorer Gary Higdon bringing a save from Ryan Burbridge but when Ballinger limped off on the half hour it could have been disastrous but they regrouped well until Carrington went down in the area, but Muggeridge sent the spot kick onto the children’s pitch outside the ground.
After the break the Sussex side continued to impress until Town took the lead slightly against the run of play just past the hour when Mark Cooper and Higdon combined for Perrott to curl a stunner round keeper Burbridge and in off the far post. Crowborough’s swagger and passing football went awol until they were again given a lifeline when Muggeridge went down in a heap and referee Andy Bennett once more pointed to the spot – substitute Dan Perry making no mistake to level with 12 minutes left.
Melksham were not to be denied and with seven minutes left a corner was not cleared and Bole crashed in the winner from 15 yards out to spark wild scenes. The drama was not over as the visitors were given a final lifeline with seconds left but Tom Phipp skied the free-kick and Town were through.
Melksham were in the hat among some famous non-League names as well as some who will be a mystery to most local supporters. Already through are Bromsgrove Sporting, who have taken over the mantle of the town side from the now defunct Bromsgrove Rovers, and Wolverhampton Sporting Club who have only been a senior side for a dozen years or so.
The Northern League has had much success in this competition over the years and Stockton Town are on a roll having beaten former winners and fellow Northern Leaguers West Auckland on Saturday. Nearer home Stourport Swifts are through as are Southampton based Hamble Club, who until quite recently were struggling on a basic pitch in the Hampshire League while Leighton Town from the Spartan South Midland League are in the hat, representing Leighton Buzzard. When former FA Cup heroes Windsor and Eton FC went bust a few years ago they were immediately replaced, on the same Stag Meadow ground, by Windsor FC and they are also through having won down at Eastbourne Town while Chichester City are through alongside f ormer Southern Leaguers Thatcham Town who are enjoying life lower down the pecking order and they beat one of three Biggleswade clubs now plying their trade to make the fifth round. With Bradford Town’s game on the island against Newport IOW rescheduled for next Saturday and a handful of ties still to be decided, both Wiltshire clubs were anxious to see Monday’s draw. Broadcast live on Talksport Two, the draw gave Melksham Town another home draw, against Tring Athletic, a Spartan South Midlands League club from Hertfordshire. They are currently just a point off the bottom of the Premier Division having won five of their 17 league games but have come good in cups and beat Hullbridge Sports 5-1 on Saturday. They took over from Tring Town when that club went bust and play at what is a former Isthmian League ground just outside the town which is north of Watford on the A41.
Bradford Town fared less well in the draw as they have another long trip if they get past Newport IOW on Saturday in the rearranged fixture.
The draw gave them a journey to either Marske United, who are based on the Tees coast near Redcar and are one of the top clubs in the Northern League, or Hinckley FC, who were only formed three years ago following the collapse of Hinckley United. That club share the ground of village side Heather St Johns (pronounced Heether), which is an excellently appointed venue close to the town itself and are sixth in the Midland League, three places above their landlords.