A bitterly cold afternoon at The BS3 Services Stadium saw Melksham hit Manor Farm for five on Saturday afternoon, writes William Ledbury.
Frankie Artus’ positive announcement as a member of the Farm’s squad in the last 48 hours had infused a real sense of optimism heading into Saturday’s match – but a blistering second-half performance from Managerless Melksham condemned Bristol Manor Farm to another heavy defeat in the Southern League Division One South.
Along with the Farmy Army faithful, local students were invited to Manor Farm’s inaugural ‘Student Day’ to cheer on the men in red as they took the pitch for the action-packed afternoon of non-league football.
Lee Lashenko’s side were clearly raring to go from the start when Josh Ford blasted a header from the edge of the box off the crossbar and onto the roof of the net in the fourth minute.
In the 11th minute, Farm came agonisingly close again after Jayden Nielsen dragged wide and Owen Howe shot off target.
Two minutes later Manor Farm rightfully went ahead when captain Jake Gosling gracefully dinked over Mac Boyd. The move started with the skipper who cleverly dummied the ball, allowing Nielsen to break free and set up the chance for Gosling to score.
In the 18th minute, Jake Gosling curled a fantastic free-kick onto the far post – coming very close to grabbing his second goal inside the first quarter of the match.
Out of nowhere, Melksham pounced on a rare mistake from Josh Ford and equalised through new signing Ben Brooks from Cinderford Town. The striker had time and space inside the area, and cushioned the ball into the bottom left corner.
While Manor Farm searched for a second goal, visiting goalkeeper Boyd, on loan from neighbours Bristol City, performed incredibly throughout the match and kept his side well in the game during the first half.
Howe’s effort was blocked only as far as debutant Artus, who lashed the ball with venom, but Boyd was alert in the visiting goal and pushed the ball away to safety.
As far as second halves go, Manor Farm will be disappointed not to have capitalised on the strong 45 minutes as Melksham stunned the home crowd with four well-taken goals.
Artus was clearly being held by his opposite number in the 55th minute, and despite the obvious obstruction, Melksham released Sam Hendy on goal – leaving Mason Winter no choice but to hurl his man to the floor. A fifth booking was awarded to Winter, who will now miss next week’s trip to Wimborne Town.
Despite the best efforts from the Farmy Army, there wasn’t much to cheer about from a Manor Farm perspective.
In the 65th minute, Hendy was given too much time and slammed home Melksham’s third.
It took just two minutes following Melksham’s third for Hendy to complete a remarkable 12-minute hat trick at The BS3 Services Stadium. A league record, surely?
With the Farm three goals behind, Lashenko started to roll the dice and introduce Kye Simpson, Harry Lucas and son Regan Lashenko to the action.
Melksham rounded off a poor afternoon for Manor Farm when Ben Brooks added a fifth late on.
Bristol Manor Farm turn their attention to a long trip south to Dorset where they face Tim Sills’ Wimborne Town.