Melksham Town 1-0 Ilfracombe Town
ANOTHER solid away performance went unrewarded for Ilfracombe Town on Saturday as they were beaten by a goal to nil at Melksham Town.
And their problems were not only on the pitch this week, as a puncture on the motorway trip home saw their three hour journey stretched to a six and a half hour slog back to North Devon.
On the pitch, Combe had two new faces in the squad, with newcomer Matthew Melhuish amongst the subs and fellow new arrival Louis Murrell thrown straight into the starting line up on the left wing.
The Bluebirds defended impressively throughout the game to keep Melksham’s potent strike partnership quiet – their front men had netted 43 time between them this season.
Combe looked dangerous on the counter attack, though, and with Edd Yeo having a strong game up front Steve Holland and Louis Murrell were able to feed off his lay offs all afternoon.
Arguably the best move of the game created a great opportunity for full back Josh Heafield to break clear down the left hand side, only to see his audacious 25-yard effort strike the crossbar.
Both teams were struggling to create clear-cut opportunities, and on the hour mark Melksham made a crucial substitution bringing on Luke Ballinger.
In only his third appearance for the club he made an instant impact, racing onto a loose ball and finishing well from a tight angle. Combe felt the goal should have been chalked off for a foul in the build up but Ballinger’s fine finish stood.
Holland continued to look dangerous in a more central role as Combe chased an equaliser and might have done better when the ‘keeper gifted him the ball from a goal kick.
Melhuish came on for his debut and nearly made himself an instant hero, but his half volley sailed over the bar.
It was the same old story for Ilfracombe, who came away with nothing again after a decent performance.
But the harsh reality is that they have now lost eight league games on the spin and are without a point in 2014.
“I’m fed up with hearing other managers saying how well we played and how unlucky we were,” said Ilfracombe manager Ross Middleton. “It’s nice, of course, but I’d rather they hated our guts because we’ve had three points off them.
“We’re actually playing well; the lads were absolutely brilliant today. I was gutted for them because they fought so hard, we deserved at least a draw.
“To get nothing out of the last eight games is unbelievable considering how well we’ve played in a few of those matches but it’s an unfortunate fact.
“We can’t lose heart now - if lads defend that well and keep being brave enough to get into goal scoring positions the ball will hit the back of the net soon.
“It doesn’t matter how it gets there - a 30 yard screamer, a shin or a backside - they all count and we’ll take any one of them in the next couple games.”
Middleton was also encouraged by the players’ response to the puncture on the way home.
“The bus breaking down joins the list of unbelievable stories from the season!,” he said. “It could have quite easily been a disaster with a lot of glum faces, but it once again highlighted what a good group of lads we have at the club. They were absolutely brilliant and it actually turned into a surprisingly good laugh.”
Ilfracombe will hope to end their points draught on Tuesday, when they host Willand Rovers before a crunch match away to Radstock on Saturday.