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Match Report v Kirkley (a)

KIRKLEY & PAKEFIELD  4  LONG MELFORD  3

(THURLOW NUNN PREMIER, SATURDAY 17 OCTOBER)

All but one of Long Melford's league matches this season have been against teams in the top 4 - that run continued today with a tough trip to Kirkley & Pakefield.

The performance, coming from behind three times, deserved more but losing in the 86th minute was a bitter pill to swallow.

Missing eight regular first teamers for their long trip to north Suffolk, the Villagers fielded three players making their first starts of the season, including new loan signing Tom Fitzgerald, who joins from Needham Market. 

The visitors started well and their patient passing football saw them enjoy much of the ball in the opening stages, though Kirkley, strong and direct, always looked at threat going forward. 

Midway through the first half, Melford had the ball in the net. A decent move down the right saw Ben Tait fire across the goal and Hassan Ally flying in at the far post turned the ball into the net, but the linesman’s lightening reflexes had the flag up instantly, and the goal was chalked off. 

And, as has happened often lately, Melford suffered a sucker punch as the home side took the lead just after the half-hour mark. 

Failing to clear a throw in from the Kirkley left, the ball found Cameron Russell on the far post who drilled into the corner of the net. 

Melford responded well and just before the break levelled matters with a well-earned equaliser. 

A free-kick on the right was only half cleared before being fizzed across the six yard box where a Kirkley defender could only direct into his own goal. 

With parity restored Melford were looking to get on top in the game, but it was the home side who went back in front four minutes into the second half after the visitors failed to deal with a high ball on the edge of the box. 

Danny Conroy capitalised, pouncing to send a well-taken low drive into the far corner from 20 yards. 

Confidence knocked, the Villagers showed their resilience and kept looking for another leveller and when Jacob Brown danced past a couple of challenges on the edge of the area with 20 minutes remaining and fed in recent signing Jose Santa de la Paz into the box, the teenager slammed in a fierce strike inside the post. 

With seven minutes remaining and Melford on the attack with numbers forward, they lost possession just inside the Kirkley half and the home team’s direct and rapid response was a ball in behind the visiting defence where Danny Conroy was on hand to loop the ball over the advancing Matt Walker. 

Kieran Michaels’ valiant attempt to keep the ball out was unsuccessful and Kirkley were back in front with their third of the afternoon. 

But the game wasn’t done and inside two minutes Jacob Brown had drawn Melford level once again, cutting in from the left and bending a delightful strike over the keeper’s reach from 20 yards and into the top corner. 

There was still time for late drama however. After Kirkley had nicked a late winner through Kaiden Goldspink’s 86th minute header from a free-kick, substitute Finlay Shorten, our heroic goalkeeper from this season’s FA Cup run, called into action to replace the injured Dan Swain at full-back, was shown a straight red for a lunging tackle on the half-way line. 

An eventful game at Kirkley and another good display overall, but once more Melford’s efforts and endeavour ultimately counted for nothing in the league standings. 

LONG MELFORD: Matt Walker, Evan Culmer, Dan Swain, Archie Pether, Kieran Michaels, Sam Mills, Hassan Ally, Jacob Brown (c), Jose Santa de la Paz, Tom Fitzgerald, Ben Tait

Subs: Kyle Hurley (for Ally, 75), Finlay Shorten (for Swain, 80)

Subs not used: Steve Chisholm 

Goals: OG (42), Santa de la Paz (70), Brown (85)

Booked: Jacob Brown  Sent off: Finlay Shorten

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