MELKSHAM Town exited the FA Trophy in the second qualifying round at the weekend following a 4-2 defeat away at higher-league opponents Gosport Borough.

Keen to continue their progress in the national knockout competition, Richard Fey’s Melksham – of Southern League Division One South – entered the tie as underdogs against their Southern League Premier Division South opponents but caused Gosport plenty of trouble as Luke Ballinger and Josh Ford both notched goals.

Although in the end, Gosport’s quality shone through as two goals either side of half-time ensured Borough’s safe passage through to the third qualifying round.

Melksham made a poor start at The Aerial Direct Stadium as Gosport’s Matt Peterson took advantage of some slack defending to fire the hosts into an early lead.

Fey’s men thought they had equalised moments later after a David Thompson header looped towards goal off the underside of the bar.

Yet neither referee or linesman felt it crossed the line and the visitors were left frustrated as they remained behind.

Daniel Ojo appeared to hold Melksham’s biggest threat, and he saw an effort tipped onto the bar by home goalkeeper Patrick O’Flaherty.

In their search for an equaliser, Melksham were dealt a sucker-punch shortly before the break when Theo Lewis beat the offside trap to calmly slot a second goal past Jamie Bartlett.

Fey’s visitors were not disheartened by the second goal and equalised 10 minutes after half-time through Ballinger.

The midfielder’s free-kick nestled into the bottom corner to cut the deficit in half, only for Gosport to promptly restore their two-goal lead three minutes later.

Borough’s Chris Flood forced the ball narrowly over the line amid protests from the visiting defence, but the referee and linesman awarded the goal nonetheless.

A hectic period of goalscoring continued two minutes later as Ford took his opportunity smartly to give Melksham a lifeline on the hour mark.

And as the visitors poured forward in search of what they felt was a deserved equaliser, Gosport struck in the dying moments through Matt Paterson at the end of a counter-attack to put the game beyond doubt.

Melksham return to league action this weekend when travelling to Bideford.