Long Melford’s season has continued to be a mixed bag of success and failures, but perhaps the biggest disappointment is that the club’s youth set up has finally succumbed in the FA Youth Cup after a tremendous run, and nail-biting penalty finale.
Playing away to higher level Bury Town, the Villagers’ youngsters battled through the game to force it to penalties. Shoot-outs are always tense affairs, but this game took that to another level. Goals and misses between the teams conspired to ensure that all 22 players that finished the game had to take a spot-kick, and the Villagers were eventually eliminated 9-8. It brought to an end the stirring cup run that had seen Melford overcome other higher ranked teams, and fall just short of the level where Football League teams enter the competition. The cup run however speaks volumes for the youth set up at the club, and if the nucleus of the players involved can be retained at the club, it promises a bright future.
The club’s senior team lost in the league away to Gt Yarmouth, before drawing with AFC Sudbury reserves in the League Cup before being eliminated on penalties. Saturday however saw a 3-1 victory recorded at home to Downham Town. With a loss, draw and win, a more varied collection of results is difficult to imagine.
The victory over Downham started badly when the bottom of the table strugglers plundered an unlikely early goal to take the lead. Melford ‘keeper Sam Mansfield put a defensive clearance to the feet of Downham’s Baxter, who returned the favour by shooting tamely, but the ball evaded the home ‘keeper and squirmed into the net.
Fortunately, the setback merely drove the Villagers forward and within four minutes they were level when a scramble in the Downham penalty area resulted from a corner and amidst the flurry of flying feet, Nathan Rowe prodded home from a couple of yards. This led to a spell of sustained Melford pressure, and further chances threatened the away goal, including a spectacular overhead kick by Skeggs that went narrowly wide.
It seemed a further goal was inevitable, and it duly arrived just before the break when wide man Jack Durey hit a shot from over thirty yards that arrowed into the net leaving the Downham ‘keeper helpless. It was a goal that would have graced any game. The fight seemed to have drained from Downham after the break, and Melford quickly added to their lead, as Durey added his second of the evening, coolly placing the ball wide of the ‘keeper after a defence splitting pass from Joe Harvey.
The reaminder of the game saw the Villagers pressing for a fourth, but spirited defence by Downham, who were always threatening on the break, kept the score down, and Melford had to be satisfied with a well-deserved 3-1 victory.