EMIRATES FA CUP PRELIMINARY ROUND: Long Melford 0 Saffron Walden Town 2
One of the main routes to Wembley has been slammed shut for another year for Long Melford, who produced a lacklustre display during their FA Cup exit at the hands of Saffron Walden Town on Saturday afternoon.
Jules Mumford’s men had promised much heading into the tie, having scored eight goals in their opening four matches of the new season - three of which had come against Walden in the league just five days earlier.
But on this occasion it was the visitors from Essex that were far superior in every department, so much so that the only criticism of their performance was that they did not win by an even greater margin.
Once again without the services of injured marksmen Jamie Griffiths, the Melford attack was spearheaded by Scott Yearling.
However, the number nine could only watch on as Walden created chance after chance in the first half.
There was just two minutes on the clock when Spike Bell drove straight at Melford goalkeeper Darren Moyes, before Shaun Avis dragged a shot wide from a narrow angle.
Walden winger James Crane was then off target from distance and Avis again tried his luck, this time seeing his toe-poked effort thwarted by a combination of Moyes and the base of the upright.
The pressure finally told, though, in the 21st minute. Melford failed to deal with Bell’s outswinging corner and they were punished as Graeme Turner powered in a header from 10 yards out.
The one-way traffic continued and just two minutes later Crane drove against the post, while Moyes showed good reflexes to deny Avis on the rebound.
If the Melford supporters were holding out for an improved second-half outing, their hopes were dashed as Walden once again started in the ascendancy.
Crane, who caused problems for Melford left-back Josh Collins all afternoon, stung the palms of Moyes after some good link-up play with Avis.
By this point Melford’s veteran gloveman was keeping his team in the game, but he had no answer to Walden’s second goal in the 67th minute.
A swift counter-attack saw the away side switch play from left to right, where Bell inherited possession. After advancing to 25 yards from goal, the full-back then unleashed a swerving shot that flew into the top corner of the net, leaving Moyes flailing at thin air.
Melford’s response to the second goal was to move centre-back and captain Steve Adams up front and it was he who forced Walden goalkeeper Lee Pacey into making his first save with seven minutes remaining.
The looping header looked to be sneaking in under the crossbar, but Pacey scampered back in time to tip the ball over.
Normal service was then resumed as the encounter ticked towards stoppage time. Walden substitutes Joe Murphy and Charlie Dicker both had decent openings, only to be impeded by the woodwork.
But it mattered little to the outcome, meaning that it is Walden who will make the trip to Chesham United of the Southern League Premier Division next month.
Melford: Moyes, R Waugh, Collins, Jackson, Adams, A Waugh, Rowe, Clarke, Yearling, Holmes, Swain