Kingfishers catch a zephyr into FA Vase semi-finals
By Luke Edwards
We were made to work hard for our quarter final victory in Wiltshire.
As promised, a crowd in excess of 2,000 turned out at Melksham Town to support these two sides in their FA Vase Quarter Final clash. It was our first away clash of the campaign, and the lack of home comforts showed in the opening exchanges, as we were finding it difficult to get much time and space on the ball.
The home team, obviously a physically powerful side, were winning headers and snuffing out our attempts at threatening their defence, but did not take this opportunity to dominate, as our back five including goalkeeper Chris Rackley stood firm.
In truth, it was a largely frustrating first half for fans and players alike, as the ball spent a lot of the time in the air, being carried from keeper to keeper on a wind that is a significant factor in wide open and flat geographical surroundings. It is a very impressive ground and pitch for this step of the football pyramid, but it is certainly vulnerable to the elements.
Melksham were able to carve out a few good opportunities, each time missing at the far post with Rackley confident that he had it covered.
On the odd occasion that we were able to threaten in the final third, we only managed to test the goalkeeper once, with Ekow Elliott firing straight at the keeper. Elliott had the half's other notable attempt, with a shot from distance that went wide, whilst Gareth Thomas also headed wide from a Tom Browne free-kick.
Into the second half and the coaching staff must have had some strong words at half-time, because the forward line really seemed to up their game. They managed to get the ball down on the lush carpet of a pitch and retained possession far more, which saw Elliott and Harry Grant get the opportunity to approach the byline on their respective wings and get crosses into the box.
Melksham were still a threat though, earning a free-kick in a dangerous position that Rackley was equal to.
The next good chance came for us from a free-kick that Shane Cooper-Clark had deflected over the bar and onto the roof of the net, with some of our vocal visiting fans thinking it was in.
Elliott, a strong contender for Man of the Match, was finding himself on the ball a lot and continued to retain possession and either beat his man or draw a foul, but each time that the ball made it into the box, it just wouldn't fall for our forwards, despite a couple of crosses being dropped or fumbled by the home keeper.
It took until the 89th minute for our patience and perseverance to pay off, as Elliott found himself in an uncommon amount of space on the edge of the area and, after being able to take a couple of touches to bring it into the area, he fired a low shot into the bottom corner. Cue wild celebrations from the players in front of their adoring fans, as relief took the place of frustration.
We almost doubled the lead a moment later as the ball sat up nicely for Ross Cook in a central position, but his shot was blocked.
Melksham had time to make us sweat with a couple of late opportunities to deliver long balls into the box, with their keeper going up to try to get on the end of it, but they didn't make them count, and Cooper-Clark almost took the chance to capitalise on the absent goalie with a long-range effort on the counter attack, but the last man did well to block it.
After an eternity of stoppage time, the referee blew the full time whistle to see us fly into the semi-final draw on Monday as Danny Robinson and his side make history by going at least one round further than their 1988/89 counterparts.