BRAVE Melksham Town saw their FA Trophy campaign grind to a halt on Saturday after losing 2-1 against Suffolk-based Leiston in the competition’s second qualifying round.

Byron Lawrence and Matt Blake were on target for the hosts to establish a two-goal advantage before Jon Davies’ penalty with minutes remaining halved Town’s deficit.

Davies’ effort proved a case of too little too late for Melksham though, but manager Kieran Baggs insists his players can hold their heads high after making the 10-hour round trip without several of their regular first-team members.

With Baggs himself and two of the club’s under 18s members on the bench, the Melksham boss praised his side’s battling performance.

“It was a really gutsy performance,” said Baggs.

“If you lose a game of football, you have to prepare for the next one.

“But it was one of those games where we were playing a team from a league higher than us, we had five of six members out and played with a bare 11 plus myself and two lads from the under 18s on the bench.

“It was a real battling performance, and on another day – with a full-strength side – we could at least have forced a replay out of that game.

“I was proud of our efforts, we had some good team bonding time given the 10-hour round trip.

“In terms of cup defeats, it was one that wasn’t too damaging for morale.”

Missing several key players - including Neikell Plummer, Mark Cooper and Brad Norris – cost Melksham the chance to earn at least a replay, according to Baggs.

Ahead of the club’s crunch South Division One South tie against fourth placed Street this Saturday, Baggs has every reason to be in positive spirits about his side’s play-off hopes.

Currently one point adrift of the play-off frame, Town have lost just one of their opening 10 league fixtures – a stat which bodes well for a heavy schedule between now and Christmas.

“Saturday was one of those games that everyone wanted to be a famous Melksham win coupled with a great day out,” said Baggs.

“That was part of our team talk – no one wanted a long trip home following a poor result.

“But that wasn’t the case, we battled really hard.

“In some patches we needed some more quality, but it was a windy day and conditions were bad. It stopped us playing a bit of football.

“But, with a full-strength side, we would’ve caused a few more problems.

“Even to have some options on the bench – at one point I was getting myself warmed up.

“The boys the travelled were a real credit to the club, they can keep their heads held high.”