PAUL Shanley is backing his Bradford Town players to maintain their focus and wrap up the Toolstation League First Division title.

Barnstaple Town’s defeat at the hands of Warminster Town secured Shanley’s league leaders a top-two finish. The Trowbridge Road men could seal the First Division crown next week if second-placed Shepton Mallet fail to beat Cheddar tomorrow.

Bradford suffered a slip-up as they fell to only their second defeat of the season at home to county rivals Devizes Town last weekend but bounced back on Tuesday night with a comprehensive victory at Almondsbury UWE.

“At the start of the season, we brought in players that were winners and their experience should hopefully help us get over the line,” said Shanley.

“We’ve been at the top of the table for such a long time that it would be a travesty if we didn’t win it. We know what we’ve got to do and we’ve just to keep concentrating on one game at a time.

“When you’re at the top, teams raise their game against you and even more so when they’re local rivals.

“That’s what happened last Saturday and fair play to Devizes because they battled and held on to what they had.

“But we bounced back with a really good performance at Almondsbury on Tuesday.”

A goal from Devizes’ Mark Barnes saw Bradford lose 1-0 last weekend but on Tuesday, goal machine Sam Jordan hit a brace to take his tally for the season to a whopping 70 goals, with Tom Welch also on target.

Tomorrow, Shanley’s men travel to bottom-of-the-table Portishead Town, who they crushed 11-1 earlier in the season.

No players? No problem for Perrin’s understrength Melksham

MELKSHAM Town manager Darren Perrin paid tribute to his club’s resilience after his under-strength side won at Buckland Athletic last weekend.

Ben Thomson’s first half free-kick was cancelled out by the hosts’ Carl Roles but Melksham’s Nick Ridout came off the bench to net the winner with his first touch.

“We went there with just 13 players but they put in a shift for the club,” said Perrin.

“They got a deserved equaliser in the second half but Nick Ridout came off the bench to get the winner for us and we definitely deserved to win the game.

“We had seven players on county duty with the Wiltshire U18s and for us to go and win at Buckland, who are a good side, and the reserves to beat Intel to pretty much wrap up the Wiltshire League (Division One) title, shows the resilience of the club.”

Stuart Greener is due to return to the Melksham squad for tomorrow’s home clash with Willand Rovers but striker Sean Benison is sidelined with a knee injury.

Also returning is defender Dean Flockton, who despite having his Southern League registration transferred from Frome Town to Division One West play-off hopefuls Paulton Rovers, remains primarily at Perrin’s disposal.

The Conigre chief added: “The Paulton manager, Nick Bunyard, used to play for me and is a good friend, and he asked about the possibility of signing Dean as cover.

“They’re going for the play-offs so if they end up needing him and it fits in with my plans, he can go and play for them. But Dean is definitely a Melksham player.”

Rawlings relieved by win

CORSHAM Town chief Trevor Rawlings concedes his side were fortunate to come away from Oldland Abbotonians with all three points on Wednesday night but won’t bank on his team’s fine form continuing.

Liam Brown’s deflected effort was enough to secure a victory for Corsham, who have lost just once in the last 18 games, remaining unbeaten for the last 13.

“It was one of those games where defences were on top and a draw probably would have been a fair result,” said Rawlings.

“They played 4-5-1, were out there to stifle and the game and were happy when it was 0-0 at half-time. But Liam Brown’s shot looped off a defender and went in.

“It keeps our run going though and that’s brilliant. We’d like to try and stay unbeaten in the next two matches before we have the mayhem of six games in two weeks.”

Nick Holton and Ben Moore scored as Corsham won 2-0 at Wellington last weekend, with Holton controversially sent off.

Jinx ended by double

DEREK Graham was delighted to see Warminster Town grab a victory against Barnstaple Town on Wednesday night, dispelling their Stuart Green end hoodoo in the process.

Warminster trailed 1-0 at the break before Gino Necco’s spectacular half-volley and Jack Miluk’s scorching strike turned the game on its head.

Joint-boss Graham reckons that his side’s two goals were the first scored at the eastern end of Weymouth Street during his and Andy Crabtree’s stint in charge.

“We were playing towards the end that we always scored in and when it was 1-0 at half-time, we said ‘well we’re not going to win this one now’,” said Graham.

“But we scored two cracking goals and I was chuffed to bits because I think Barnstaple are the third best side in the league behind Bradford and Shepton.”

Jack Metcalf’s goal wasn’t enough to prevent Warminster slipping to a 2-1 loss at Keynsham Town last weekend.

Bown hammers home side’s effort as Mallet secure the spoils

MATT Bown concedes that Westbury United simply didn’t make life hard enough for promotion-chasers Shepton Mallet last weekend.

Bown’s side were well-beaten at Meadow Lane by the Toolstation League First Division’s second-placed team, who took a first half lead through Craig Loxton.

James Billing and Joe Morgan struck after the break to round off a comfortable afternoon at Meadow Lane for Mallet and the United manager was disappointed with his side’s limp resistance.

“They’re a good side with a big budget and players that have played at a higher level but it was just too easy for them,” said Bown.

“We’ve had games where we’ve been out-played before but never out-battled and that’s what happened on Saturday. We just didn’t work hard enough to compete with them.

“It’s disappointing and I don’t think it helps that I’ve not been able to select a consistent side in the last few weeks.

“We had five first-teamers missing, but that’s me making an excuse.”

Mark Young and Wayne Wheeler could be back for tomorrow’s home clash with Wellington but Simon Millard, Joe Maloney and Joe Murray are all due to be missing.

Westbury are currently 17th in the table, three points behind county rivals Calne Town.

Reserves secure semi-final clash with Bees

CORSHAM Town Reserves manager Justin Flowers would love to see his side cap off their season with a home cup final.

A dramatic extra-time triumph saw Corsham beat Vale of Pewsey 4-3 in the Senior KO Cup last Saturday, setting up a semi-final trip to Trowbridge Town this weekend.

Adam Mitchell, Adam Casserley and Josh Batstone all scored before Casserley’s extra-time winner won it for the visitors, with Flowers also forced to deputise between the sticks after keeper Dave Osborne went off injured in the second half.

“I was just so happy that it didn’t go to penalties because I wouldn’t have fancied that when I was in goal,” said Flowers.

“It was probably the best we’ve played all season and we could have scored a lot more goals.

“We’ve got a tough semi-final coming up against Trowbridge, who are a good side, but we’re looking forward to it because of how we played last weekend and if we can perform like that again, then we should be able to get ourselves through.

“We’d love to get to the final, especially because it takes place at Corsham. It’s always a special day and to play in it at our ground would be great.

In Division One, title-favourites Melksham Town Reserves leapfrogged Intel to go top with a 2-0 victory over the Swindon side.