MELKSHAM Town battled their way through 120 gruelling minutes to lift the Wiltshire Senior Cup earlier on Saturday.
In an intriguing clash with Sydenhams League Downton, which saw scoring opportunities fall by the bucket-load but neither side able to steal an advantage, Melksham rallied in extra-time and two goals from two substitutes saw them crowned county champions at Chippenham Town’s Hardenhuish Park.
Downton had Dave Clayton’s outfit pegged back in their own half in the opening stages but once Melksham found their feet, they began to threaten, with defender Adam Young firing a shot inches past the post with seven minutes on the clock.
In the 13th minute, Downton’s Brandon Mundy burst into the Town box and his low shot was saved by Tom Drewitt.
A minute later, Melksham fashioned their best chance of the half as full-back Matt Sharp floated in a delicious cross from the right flank, which was met by the head of top-scorer Gary Higdon.
The header looked destined to nestle in the top corner but instead smacked against the upright.
On the half-hour mark, Clayton’s men went close again when Higdon got away from his marker on the left-flank and floated a teasing cross to the far post but the arriving Sean Benison opted to stoop down low and didn’t connect as a golden opportunity went begging.
In the 38th minute, Downton had the ball in the net from a Danny Western shot but the assistant referee’s flag saved Melksham as the strike was ruled out for offside, with Vince Rusher also firing across the face of goal late in the half.
The Robins side looked certain to take the lead seven minutes after the break when Town’s Ian Jeffrey got a defensive header all wrong and sent Jamie Waters racing towards goal unchallenged but Drewitt came out of his goal and saved well to keep the scores level.
Downton’s Claudio Herbert had a shot deflected wide shortly afterwards and with 67 minutes on the clock, the ball broke to Western, who side-footed a looping strike that pinged against the frame of the goal.
Five minutes later, Melksham’s Dan Kovacs repeated Western’s trick when he got on the end of a long ball and went for the spectacular but saw his dipping strike smack the crossbar.
Downton looked certain to break the deadlock two minutes later when Rusher connected with a looped delivery but he was denied by Nathan Flower on the line.
Town’s Kovacs headed on the roof of the net as the chances continued to present themselves but somehow, the match remained goalless and went into extra-time.
Melksham could have been forgiven for being out on their feet but they showed little signs of tiredness and ten minutes into the first added period, they put one hand on the cup.
Dave Macey floated in a corner kick and substitute Dan Griffiths was left unmarked at the free-post, with the winger beating keeper Charlie Aldrige with a header and giving his side the lead.
Predictably, Downton threw everything at their opponents in the second period of extra-time and they caused an almighty scramble in the Town area two minutes after the break, which eventually lead to Waters firing over.
There was controversy three minutes later as the Robins’ Harvey Coker was struck in the face as he challenged for a ball in the Melksham area but the match referee chose to award an indirect free-kick for the head injury, rather than the penalty Downton were appealing for.
With almost every Town player stood on the goal-line, the ball was laid off for Rusher to strike goalwards but keeper Drewitt rushed forward to deflect the effort to safety.
In the 116th minute, Melksham’s Macey almost caught out keeper Aldridge from distance and two minutes later, Clayton’s men rubber-stamped their victory.
Will Stead collected the ball in the area and held up play before side-footing a pass into the area.
Higdon dummied and substitute Ash Barnett overlapped, carrying the ball towards goal before sending Aldrige the wrong way to cap off a delightful second goal for Melksham, who sealed the county cup.
MELKSHAM TOWN: Tom Drewitt, Matt Sharp (Will Stead 69), Ian Jeffrey, Dave Macey (c), Adam Young, Sayeed Ibrahim, Sean Benison (Dan Griffiths 69), Nathan Flower, Gary Higdon, Dan Kovacs, Josh Robinson (Ash Barnett 104).
Subs not used: Jordan Evans, Dave Butler.
DOWNTON: Charlie Aldridge, Matt Palmer, Brandon Mundy, Matt Scott, Ben Smith (c), Jamie Waters, Matt Holmes (Thomas Moseley 79), Vince Rusher, Harvey Coker, Danny Western, Claudio Herbert.
Subs not used: Dan Telfer, Liam Hope, James Sainsbury, Tom Cowley.
ALL THE BEST PICTURES AND REACTION IN NEXT THURSDAY'S GAZETTE AND HERALD AND NEXT FRIDAY'S WILTSHIRE TIMES. FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @gazsport AND @WTSport