Melksham 2 Winchester City 2
Prior to Saturday Winchester had played Melksham winning four times, winning three and drawing one, with the one drawn match seeing Winchester go two goals down after 14 minutes, pull one goal back before half time and eventually drew 2-2. Saturday's match followed a similar pattern except it took ten fewer minutes for Winchester to go two goals down.
Melksham and Winchester are closely matched in terms of league points and both teams went into the match on the back of convincing wins. with Winchester putting four goals past Slimbridge the previous Saturday, while Melksham had recorded a 9-3 victory against Royal Wootton Bassett of the Hellenic League Premier Division on Tuesday.
Winchester announced an unchanged starting line-up from Saturday, but the big news from Winchester was that Warren Bentley was back and on the substitutes bench. Bentley had scored 57 goals for Winchester in 2015/16 when he was captain of the team reached the playoffs of the equivalent division to where Winchester currently play at and his performances that season saw him awarded the Golden Boot at The National Game Awards.
With Oli Bailey and Craig Feeney also returning and on the bench Winchester certainly had plenty of attacking options available for this game and this season forwards Greg Peel, Tyrell Mitford and Graeme Purdy have also been selected in their match day squad this season.
Before the match a minute's silence was observed in memory of Ben Smith a former Melksham youth team player who died during the week.
However Winchester fell behind in the second minute when Will Christopher set up Albie Hopkins who scored with a low shot into the bottom corner. Two minutes later it was 2-0 when Hopkins turned provider and set up Luke Ballinger who scored with a volley into the top corner. Ballinger is something of a legend at Melksham having made over 250 appearances for the club and scored more than a goal every other game. When a managerial change in the 2018/19 campaign meant that many players left the club Ballinger was one of the few to remain.
Winchester shell shocked by conceding two early goals began to play with more urgency and had the better of the last quarter of an hour of the second half, but after the two early goals neither side was creating any chances of note and the remainder of the half looked like being goalless until Kieran Douglas gave Winchester a lifeline scoring from 16 yards out with two minutes of the half remaining.
At half time Winchester make two changes with Warren Bentley replacing Adam Grange and Rob Flooks coming on for Dan Walster and they certainly started the second half better than they started the first and within five minutes of the restart Simba Mlambo levelled the scores.
Having scored at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second Winchester had built a momentum and Warren Bentley had two efforts just off target one after exchanging passes with Jamie Barron, but by now Melksham had also begun to look more dangerous and were making Winchester defend deeply at times.
In the 75th minute a Melksham corner involved a goalmouth scramble with the ball eventually cleared off the line, while Craig Feeney who had come on for Ollie Balmer almost scored with his first touch.
There was not much further goalmouth action in the final 10 minutes as the match eventually finished all square, a result that Winchester would have probably settled for after the first four minutes.
Melksham have probably the best facilities in the division and in light of that it is not surprising they have good attendance figures for their home games.
On Saturday Winchester are at home to Bristol Manor Farm and as things stand they have two other home matches and one away match in the remainder of November. However the home fixture against Plymouth Parkway on 27th November is dependent on them failing to beat Salisbury in the F A Trophy on Saturday.
The Winchester under 23 team beat the Ringwood under 23 team 3-1 away from home having been 1-0 ahead at the interval.