Melksham Town 2  Northwood 0

Saturday 5th September 2020


1 Hafed El-Droubi    
2 Ryan Esprit    
3 Jaden Sharman    
4 Haluna Masembe    
5 Ray Borges De Oliveira    
6 Charlie Kuehn    
7 Devonte Totesaut    
8 Amin Belaid    
9 Radu Stefanoaica    
10 Lucas Toti    
11 Marcelo Graca    
12 Excel Muhemba    
14 Diogo Da Silva    
15 Andre Da Costa    
16 Leon Smith    
17 Guilherme Monti    

Northwood made the trip down to Wiltshire as they enter the final week of preparations for the new season with the F.A. Cup preliminary tie against Slimbridge only seven days away.

Woods had a new man between the sticks in the shape of the experienced Hafed El-Droubi, and there was a new pairing in the middle of a defence still missing the services of skipper Dave Thomas and Craig Carby, Haluna Masembe and Ray Borges De Oliveira starting together for the first time. Northwood also welcomed back midfielder Marcelo Graca after a couple of weeks away.

Woods made a bright start against their Southern League Division One opponents, keeping the ball well on a perfect playing surface and in warm sunshine. And Lucas Toti created an early opening for the overlapping right-back Ryan Esprit but his was charged down by the Melksham defence.

Northwood were given a warning in a rare moment of danger from the hosts as Alan Griffin headed over unmarked from a lofted free-kick. But the visitors were soon dominating possession again and should have opened the scoring after Charlie Kuehn’s neat through-ball set Radu Stefanoaica free but his shot crashed off the underside of the crossbar with no red shirt on hand to follow up.

Woods continued to ask all the questions and Kuehn fired in a long range effort which was deflected for a corner which came to nothing. And having done most of the defending up to that point, the hosts forced their first corner on 31 minutes which was cleared by the Northwood defence.

Woods were soon on the attack again with their neat approach play, but the bite in the final third was still lacking as Stefanoaica had a shot blocked and Toti fired over after creating space for himself in the Melksham box.

The hosts were beginning to see more of the ball as the half wore on, with Jack Ball firing over with a shot on the turn. But it was Northwood who went close once more with a sweeping move down the right flank as Esprit combined with Stefanoaica to create the opening for Amin Belaid, whose shot was charged down with Toti’s follow up suffering the same fate.

However, despite Northwood’s dominance it was Melksham who took the lead with the final kick of the half as quick counter-attack saw Albie Hopkins low cross from the right being met by the unmarked Griffin to fire the ball beyond El-Droubi’s outstretched arm.

Manager Rob Ursell made a number of changes for the second half with Guilherme Monti, Diogo Da Silva and Excel Muhemba entering the fray with Kuehn showing his versatility as he moved back into the central defensive slot vacated by Masembe.

Melksham came out with renewed vigour after the break and El-Droubi was called into action as he denied Hopkins with a smart save. Play soon switched to the other end as Woods forced two free-kicks in dangerous positions. Firstly Borges De Oliveira’s curling effort from 25-yards was turned around the post by Jamie Bartlett before the Melksham stopper was untroubled by Toti’s later effort from a similar distance.

The hosts made a couple of changes and they were beginning to make more of impression in the Northwood half and El-Droubi pulled off a stunning save to keep out Josh Ford’s close range header while Ryan Bole’s audacious long range attempt had El Droubi scrambling but the ball narrowly cleared the far post.

Leon Smith was introduced to the attack on 66 minutes with Kuehn making way as Woods switched to three at the back in a bid to get back in the game. But Northwood were forced into another change as Monti suffered a nasty arm injury and was replaced by Andre Da Costa.

Woods had struggled to recapture the cohesion they had enjoyed in the first half although they did threaten as Muhemba’s low cross found Smith with the goal at his mercy but the substitute got in a bit of a tangle as he looked to apply the finishing touch and the chance was gone.

Northwood failed to create any real opportunities for the remainder of the contest and their injury woes continued as Borges De Oliveira limped off with an ankle injury.

And their disappointing second half performance was compounded as they conceded a second goal deep into stoppage-time with El-Droubi being caught in no-man’s land well outside the box as he was rounded by the Melksham attacker who rolled the ball into the unguarded net.

REPORT by Robin Piper