Royal Wootton Bassett Town Under 18s were edged out 2-1 by Melksham Town in their latest Wiltshire League Floodlit Division fixture.
League leaders Melksham had started the season with two comfortable wins against Pewsey Vale and New College but knew that Thursday night's visit from Basssett would be their sternest test so far this season and so it proved. In the end Melksham manager Colby Cain had goalkeeper Zak Beard to thank for his side maintaining their 100% winning start to the season after his stunning one-handed save from a James Johnson strike five minutes from time denied Bassett a late equaliser in an entertaining game.
Both sides were comfortable in possession from the off and the first 15 minutes saw the two sides looking to create chances with their passing game but without really creating any clear openings.
The first real chance of the game fell to the home side Melksham on 19 minutes and it came from a free kick on the edge of the box. The free kick was taken by Rio Young, but his powerful shot was deflected over the bar by the Bassett wall.
The visitors first real shot on goal came three minutes later when Adam Jones created an opportunity for himself but saw his strike from outside the box go wide of the right-hand post. A minute later the best chance of the game so far fell to Michael Gilder, but his powerful shot was well parried away by Melksham keeper Beard, and then cleared for a corner by the Melksham defence.
However, it was not long after that Beard was beaten for the one and only time in the game. It came from a stunning strike from a set piece following a foul on Tomas Warren, who was starting to cause the Melksham defence problems with his pace. The free kick, 25 yards out just to the right-hand side of the box, saw Adam Jones step up and fire in a superb strike that just eluded the fingertips of Beard and go in off the underside of the crossbar to make it 1-0 to Bassett.
The Melksham keeper was now becoming the busier of the two keepers. Another shot from distance, this time from the influential Gilder, was held at the second attempt by Beard and the Melksham keeper then turned over the bar another free kick from Jones, this time from slightly further out.
It was not all one-way traffic though as Melksham continued to have their fair share of the possession without being able to create any clear-cut chances.
It was the visitors who would go close to adding to their lead just before the break. James Johnson headed over from a free kick from Nathanial Bell and then Tomas Warren had two chances right at the end of the half. Firstly he fired well over after Alex Stephenson intercepted the ball on the edge of the Melksham box and put Warren through and then the striker hit the crossbar with a powerful shot which bounced back into the Melksham six-yard box and was cleared to safety.
A let off for the league leaders who went into the break happy to only be trailing by the one goal.
It was a different story after the break though as Melksham came out of the blocks quickly and were back on level terms within a couple of minutes of the re-start.
Again, it was another well executed strike, this time from Melksham's Cameron Pearce, who fired in with a shot from the edge of the box to make it 1-1.
The goal brought confidence to the Melksham side who now had the upper hand and started to cause the visitors problems at the back. On 53 minutes the Bassett defence failed to clear their lines and as the ball broke to the home side a foul was committed just inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Captain Aron Byfield took the responsibility for the spot kick and made no mistake to put Melksham in front for the first time in the game.
Having substituted Tomas Warren at half time, the visitors had lost half of their pacy front line and Bassett found they were no longer exerting the same pressure on the Melksham defence as they had in the first half. It took until the 62nd minute for their first real chance of the half, winning back possession in midfield Nathanial Bell crossed in for James Johnson but the Melksham defence were quickly on to him and he was not able to get his shot away.
At the other end Melksham went close to extending their lead when Olly Clarke disposed Adam Jones in midfield but fired his shot wide of the goal.
The game started to open up as legs tired and Bassett went close to an equaliser on 77 minutes when Harry Farrow shot just wide with a good chance for the visitors.
The visitors were now pushing hard for the equaliser and the game defining moment came five minutes from time when the ball broke to James Johnson on the edge of the box and his first time powerful shot was acrobatically turned round the post by Zak Beard in the Melksham goal for what turned out to be a match winning save for his side.
A great game of football played in a sporting manner by both sides all evening. The third straight win for Melksham saw them open up a three-point lead at the top of the table.
Credit: Mark Smedley
Last modified on Friday 9th October 2020 at 14:23