Seven Sharp for Melville

Melville surged into the third round of the Chatham Cup with a 7-0 romp over nearest northern league neighbours Claudelands Rovers.

It was easily Melville’s biggest win of the season and a record Melville score against Rovers, who are second in northern league division 2, having lost just one other match this season.

A much sterner test awaits the Unicorns away to premier league title contenders Central United on Saturday, but this was an encouraging showing in tricky wet conditions at Gower Park, after some lean home returns in recent times. In many ways it was a nostalgic throw-back to the goal-fests of 2017-18, when Melville took mug teams to pieces weekly.

“I will sleep with the light on tonight,” lamented Rovers coach Mark Cossey afterwards. “Because that was a complete nightmare.”

Melville gave a start to new Welshman Craig Pritchard, who was later named man of the match for his quick movement and incisive passing, while his brother Mike came off the bench in the second half and also gave a good account of himself.

Rovers started with eight players who have previously played for Melville, in Thomas Mouncher, Jono Viviani, Sedy Ngungambili, Jacob Robb, David Smith, Dan Finlay, Johnny Konings and skipper Bailey Webster. Finlay was named Rovers’ player of the day.

More interesting was the Melville starting frontline of Josh Davies, Marc “Hitman” Evans and Craig Pritchard.

Marc “Hitman” Evans was in fine form against Claudelands Rovers

Melville’s attack is now more Welsh than a Pontypridd leek supper, and the most pleasing aspect of the day was the often slick interchange of passing between The Hitman and the Pritchard brothers.

Evans admitted he was the major beneficiary of the Pritchards’ arrival, and in the clubrooms he later paid them the ultimate compliment in his native Welsh tongue.

“Maent yn dda,” Evans said. “Maen nhw fel fi.”

Evans also boldly predicted Mike, the older brother, would prove to be the better player once he gets up to full fitness after not having played for a number of weeks.

Mike Pritchard came off the bench to make his Melville debut.

The goalscoring began in almost comedic fashion when Rovers keeper Harry Porritt fumbled the ball in seeking to kick from his hands, and Evans, who has been behind him, swooped in to steal it and score in the seventh minute.

Four minutes later the Hitman went around the keeper and squared for Davies to tap home, and three minutes before half time Craig Pritchard finished a sweeping move for his first Melville goal, cutting in from the left.

Pritchard could well have had a hat trick, but blazed a first half shot high, and slipped the ball just wide when through on goal midway through the second half.

Liam Steffert, Logan Wisnewski and Evans added good second half goals, while the best of the day came from sub Harry Christensen Rose, who capitalised on a beautiful build-up by Craig Pritchard and Evans to strike from the right in the 80th minute. The goal was erroneously credited to Wisnewski by officials on the team card.

Rovers bravely tried to keep up morale. “They’ve got nothing,” skipper Webster urged his team when Melville were 6-0 ahead.

Melville co-coach Sam Wilkinson was delighted with his team.

“There were a fortuitous first couple of goals, and goals do change the momentum,” Wilkinson said. “But later on our quality came to the fore.”

He praised Craig Pritchard. “He really linked the play and showed glimpses of what he will bring to Melville.”

On the debit side, Melville struck discipline problems with the usual suspects. Davies picked up a booking and is now on four yellow cards for the season, one shy of suspension.

Worse was Liam Hayes. He was booked for a bad tackle in the first half, then subbed midway through the second half,

Sitting on the bench he then slagged off the assistant referee and received a further yellow and is now suspended for at least one week, possibly more. Such actions also breached the club’s own code of conduct. It presents a unique challenge for the coaching staff. Melville have never previously had to deal with stupidity of this magnitude.

Melville were without skipper Aaron Scott, but Federico Marquez came off the bench in the second half as he recovers from injury.

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