KEEPER Tom Drewitt’s spot kick heroics inspired holders Melksham Town to a dramatic penalty shootout win over Bradford Town to retain their Wiltshire Senior Cup at Hardenhuish Park last night, writes CARL FIELD.
Drewitt saved penalties from Dan King and Tom Evans as Melksham won the shootout 3-2 after a breathtaking final had finished 3-3 after extra time.
Earlier, Melksham had twice come from behind as Ben Thomson and Ryan Bennett cancelled out Dan King’s brace as the game ended 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes.
Dan Kovacs gave Melksham the lead for the first time in extra time before Andy Gilbert’s last-gasp leveller for Bradford in added time in extra time sent the game to penalties.
It was Toolstation First Division champions Bradford - looking to secure a league and cup double - who drew first blood 10 minutes in.
Kieran Baggs’ defence splitting ball put King in on goal and he made no mistake, coolly converting the chance to put Bradford in front.
Prolific hitman Sam Jordan was just inches away from doubling their lead on 21 minutes with a shot across Drewitt and then, minutes later, forced the Melksham keeper into a save after running on to King’s pass.
Melksham struggled to get going in the first 45 minutes with their closest effort coming on the stroke of half time when Thomson's inswinging free-kick caught a flick off a Bradford defender and flashed agonisingly wide of Lewis Porter's right hand post.
Whatever Darren Perrin said to his players at half time certainly had the desired effect as, two minutes after the re-start, Melksham - now playing down the slope - got themselves level.
Thomson picked up the ball up from skipper David Thompson, got it out of his feet and struck a sweet left-footed shot from 30 yards that zipped off the surface and beat Porter to make it 1-1.
But they were level until just past the hour mark when King curled home his second from 25 yards into the far corner after a good team move to put Bradford back in front.
By now this thrilling encounter was going one way, then the other, as chances came and went at both ends.
Melksham levelled for a second time in the game on 69 minutes and it was Thomson - who had an outstanding game - who swung in the corner that led to the goal, with Bennett reacting quickest in the melee in the six-yard box to bundle home the equaliser to make it 2-2.
Bradford’s Jake Hissocks crashed a shot against the post on 74 minutes while Luke Ballinger wasted a couple of sights of goal at the other end as the sides finished level at the end of normal time.
Bradford were once again denied by the woodwork in extra time when sub Shaun Percival unleashed a 30 yard drive, before Melksham got their noses in front for the first time.
Once again Thomson was involved - claiming his second assist of the match - crossing for Kovacs to head home to make it 3-2.
But there was to be another sting in the tale in added time in extra time when Gilbert netted from close range after Bradford had launched one last attack and the ball was flashed across the six yard box.
With momentum now seemingly having shifted Bradford’s way, Higdon smashed the first Melksham penalty against the crossbar.
However, it didn’t costly as Dan King saw his spot kick saved by Drewitt.
Both sides then scored their next two penalties, with Kovacs and Mike Perrott scoring for Melksham while Dan Fowler and Sam Jordan successfully converted their spot kicks.
Ballinger then blazed over for Melksham while Jake Hissocks did the same with his spot kick for Bradford.
That meant the sides were level at 2-2 with four penalties taken each. Ian Jeffrey scored his penalty before Drewitt saved from unfortunate Bradford skipper Tom Evans to send Melksham into ecstasy.
Bradford: Porter, Reaney, Gilbert, Shanley, Evans (C), Welch (Fowler), Hissocks, Hulbert (Milburn 111), Jordan, King, Baggs (Percival).
Subs not used: Gingell, Webb.
Melksham: Drewitt, Greener (Ibrahim 70), Jeffrey, Bennett, Flockton, Smith (Perrott 55), Ballinger, Thompson (C, Rodgers 118), Higdon, Kovacs, Thomson.
Subs not used: Hiller, Broom.
Referee: Simon Hooper.
ALL THE EBST REACTION AND PICTURES FROM WEDNESDAY'S FINAL IN FRIDAY'S WILTSHIRE TIMES