Willand Vs Melksham
Home is where the heart is. Or wherever you lay your hat. Or if you happen to be American, a plate. Home can be many things to many people but in football, is it an advantage?
With over half of Willands remaining games to be played at Silver Street, and with the club possessing the single worst away record in the league (and by some margin), home game advantage might be the thing that sees us over the line.
It’s a cliche of course but, in this instance, that does mean that other people have already done some of the research.
Indeed an excellent Sky Sports article notes that the pinnacle of ‘home advantage’ came in the 1895/96 season when home teams won 64.6% of games. Okay so the statistic isn’t the most up to date but does give context to the valley figures from 2015/2016 where the win % crashed to just 41,1% across 2,036 games.
Looking closer to home it’s no surprise to see that runaway promotion contenders Sholing and AFC Totton have won more than 75% and won or drawn over 93% of their games this season.
It’s equally no surprise that Cinderford and Slimbridge, teams that WIlland have to play on the road in the near future, and who currently occupy the relegation places, have a home win % of just 19% and 13% respectively, figures that rise to 44% and 33% when you include draws..
As for Willand, as always there’s a story to tell. The win % of 40% is much higher than the teams immediately around us, but is distinctly bottom half of the table when compared to the rest of the league. But when you combine wins with draws Willand rise to an astonishing 80%, the fourth best record in the league.
Against all logic and common sense, Silver Street appears to have been a fortress this season, and hopefully will continue to prove so for the next four games.
The first of those games came today against play-off contenders Melksham and there was good news for David Steele before the game with both Jack Rice and Alfie Moulden committing to the club until the end of the season following their short stay at Barnstaple, and both players featured in a strong looking Willand line up.
The game started slowly in the blustery but thankfully dry conditions, and it was the home team who were the more industrious in the opening gambits, It wasn’t until the 10th minute however that the first goal ward shot was recorded, an effort from distance from the boot of Rice which skewed past the post.
In truth the first 30 minutes won’t be remembered much past the half time coffee by the crowd of 154 with little to report; Willand had a chance took in the 20th minute, a high ball misjudged and spilled by Boyd in the Melksham goal, the defender sparing his keepers blushes and clearing the ball before Moulden fire in a shot, and Melkshams best effort of the half coming just before the half hour mark, a free kick, well met at the far post and headed across the goal, but the subsequent header cleared the bar by some distance.
The dynamics of the game changed in the 35th minute with the sending off of Graham who received his second yellow card in short order for kicking out at an opponent, leaving the visitors to play with 10 men for an hour.
The sending off ignited the home team who pushed their numerical advantage. Bray fired a shot over the bar at the end of a flowing Willand move and Moulden caused the Melksham defence issues with both his running and some delightful cross field passes, but the teams went in at half time level.
HT – Willand 0 – Melksham 0
Willand took only 4 minutes of the second half to find the first goal of the game, Moulden beating his man on the left and finding Rice with a precise pass before Rovers number 10 fired a well placed shot into the corner of the net.
Melksham refused to let their heads drop though and they were given the chance to find the equaliser in the 55th minute when a defensive error nearly cost the home team. A misunderstanding let the ball through to the feet of the Melksham forward, whose shot deflecting narrowly past the post.
Willand quickly regained their composure and Bray nearly increased the lead in minutes later, breaking free from the Melksham fullback before firing in a fiery shot that Boyd in the goal did well to deflect. The keeper then scrambled onto the ball as it squirmed across his goal line before Moulden could poke it home.
There was then a Keystone Cops tribute as Melksham prepared to take a dangerous free kick. As the taker ran up to strike the ball he stumbled and only managed to give it a graze that propelled it a few feet from his feet rather than into the Willand penalty area.
Willand continued to dominate the game for long periods and continued to create a number of chances as the half unfolded.
Bray came close again, breaking away from the Melksham defence only for the keeper to pull off another great save that somehow bounced to safety rather than into the path of an onrushing player in white and Bray found himself with a shooting opportunity minutes later following an excellent pass from the left, his shot from in front of goal getting deflected past the post for a corner.
Willand’s best chance to extend the lead came in the 83td minute. Moulden, Hill and Bray broke clear with an excellent move, the ball falling to Moulden whose curling shot struck into the base of the post. The deflection fell to the feet of Bray whose shot was superbly deflected wide by the Melksham defender who fling himself in front of the ball.
As the referee indicated 4 minutes of injury time the home crowd took a collective breath, having been in this situation of which we cannot speak on more than one occasion this season. Willand played the ball into any corner that they could find and defended well but I’m not sure that anyone breathed again until Burton grabbed a 94th minute free-kick out of the air, moments before the referee blew on his whistle.
In truth Willand should have been clear and free by the time that last free-kick was thrown into the box, but that doesn’t seem to be the Willand way this season.
Non-League football shouldn’t need to come with a health warning, but I was half-way back home before my heart gratefully returned to its normal rhythm after the game and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the crowd that felt that way.
Fortress Silver Street lived up to its new status and, weather permitting, we go again on Wednesday against Evesham for another (and I make no apologies) cup final.
For now though it’s three valuable points and a single GET IN!!
FT – Willand 1 – Melksham 0
|Private: Bailey Kempster|
|Private: Jack Rice||Goal|
|Private: Ben Griffith|
|Ollie Bray||Yellow Card|
|Nicholas Milton||Yellow Card|
|Private: Lewis Hill|
|Private: Michael Lilley|