Buildbase FA Vase
Third round replay
Melksham Town 2, Bridgwater Town 0

BRIDGWATER Town's brilliant FA Vase run came to an end after a third round reply away to Toolstation Western Premier Division rivals Melksham Town, writes Kerry Miller.

Goals at the start and finish by the game’s best player, Luke Ballinger, ensured Melksham will entertain Crowborough Athletic in the fourth round early next year.

The Robins 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 for the hosts, while Syd Camper partnered Dave Pearse and Saturday’s hero Ryan Burrows up front for the away side.

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 backline to crash another shot off the bar, before shooting wide from distance as Bridgy’s defence struggled to settle.

The visitors finally 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 net.

After the break, Demkiv 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.

The Robins couldn’t accept the let-off, though, 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 was Ballinger who topped and tailed the performance after a Bridgwater attack broke down.

Within seconds he blasted an unstoppable drive past Viney to give his side a home tie in round four, and end the Robins' Wembley dream.

Bridgwater Town: Viney, Thorne, J.White, Begg (Govier), Robinson, Jenkins, Horton, Camper, Holland (Armstrong), Pearse (Tandy), Burrows.