Monday 12th February 2018 ko 19.30
Western League Premier Division
MELKSHAM TOWN 4 (Higdon 14p 42 Sibbick 28 47)
LONGWELL GREEN SPORTS 1 (Pruett 90)
It was an evening of mistakes. Missing our turn-off from the M4 saw us arrived uncomfortably close to kick off, and on a day when parts of the country had seen snow, ice and heavy rain I’d consoled myself that since Melksham’s new ground featured a 3G pitch the game was more likely to be on. You can imagine my mixed emotions when I saw the grass pitch…
Melksham moved to Oakfields Stadium from the centrally-located Conigre in January 2017 and in geopolitical terms moved from Melksham Town Council to Melksham Without Parish. It is a curious title but it is accurate, the stadium lies at the edge of a new housing estate at the south-eastern edge of the town. The ground is part of a development that also houses Melksham Rugby Union Club, but as yet Google has neither the facilty nor the adjoining estate on it’s mapping service.
The trend seems to be toward interesting new-builds at present, and Oakfields certainly seems to be part of it. With the rugby club having their main pitch facing the other way from the football club’s main stand but their facilities within the main building, I expected so see a ground roughly along the lines of Walton & Hersham’s Elmbridge Sports Hub home. But whilst Oakfields does have elements of Elmbridge, the service road cuts the rugby club from its pitch. They have no stand, but the football does. I’m tempted to say that’s the rugby union way, the off-the-field facilities favoured over the on.
In the end found myself comparing the ground with Aveley’s new Parkside Stadium, maybe that’s how I dreamt up the place having a 3G pitch! The common feature is the main seating provision being built into the main fabric of the clubhouse. In both cases you do end up wondering how much of the weather the roof is able to keep off, but in Melksham’s case there is plenty of room, and glass to watch from the bar behind. On a cold night Robyn took full advantage.
The real quirk is the veranda on the right-hand edge of the stand. The rugby has one at the other end but despite offering a superb view the roof only covers part of it, and that part is the only covered standing in the ground.
But let’s not lose track of the fact that this is a superb new ground, and as much as everyone loved the Conigre, the club could not progress there. Here they can, and an FA Vase run, and third place in the Western League is a sign of where the club are heading. Another mistake I made was to assume they’ll be playing Southern League football next season, and so I wouldn’t visit Oakfields with the Western Hop.
The club are so obviously on the up, let’s imagine how many clubs further up the pyramid would kill to have an attendance of 349 on a cold midweek fixture with uncertain weather?
This disemboweling of relegation-haunted Longwell Green was as complete as it was expected. They’ll have more than half an eye on their Vase quarter-final at home to Thatcham Town, and even if the lure of Wembley means that promotion is delayed for a season, elevation looks a matter of if rather than when.