Fabulous Melton Foxes hold their nerve to clinch Division One title

Melton Foxes Under 17s players and coaches with sponsors Jimmi Cox (BAC Electrical) and Colin Wilkinson (Planit X) EMN-160205-175629002
Melton Foxes Under 17s players and coaches with sponsors Jimmi Cox (BAC Electrical) and Colin Wilkinson (Planit X) EMN-160205-175629002

Melton Foxes Under 17s defied the elements and stubborn opponents to clinch the Division One title last Thursday.

The result saw the Foxes end their season unbeaten with 16 wins and four draws, scoring 70 times, while their mean defence let in just 11 goals.

The title marked a huge turnaround for the Melton side who were relegated on the final day of last season after a six-point deduction.

Substitute Harrison Mayes, brought on after only 20 minutes, proved to be the catalyst for the Foxes, providing the inspiration for his team to overcome Market Bosworth’s resistance.

Having lost keeper Connor McNeight with a dislocated knee a month ago, Foxes were further hit by the loss of Alex Horobin, injured playing for Melton Mowbray’s Senior League team the previous weekend.

Kicking off with driving rain in their faces, Melton were on the defensive early on with keeper Chris Lovegrove diving to his right to push away a low, skidding shot.

Foxes struggled with the conditions as too many passes went astray, and Bosworth should have gone ahead when full-back Alex Kotarba misjudged a long cross, but the home winger screwed his close-range effort wide.

At the other end, the normally deadly Shaun Smith failed to control a through ball when he looked a likely scorer, and Alex Walker fired wide from the edge of the area.

Mayes made an immediate impact after his introduction, racing past his full-back to fire a low cross across goal. Seconds later Mayes cut inside and crossed to the unmarked Smith whose first touch failed him again.

Bosworth pressed, but found Lovegrove in inspired form to push a header round the post.

Lauchlan and Wilkinson gradually got a grip of the dangerous home forwards as Melton ended the half in control.

With the torrential rain easing off, Melton began the second half on the offensive, but a wild penalty miss by Smith highlighted the Melton nerves.

Yet it did not prove too costly as Foxes finally got their noses in front five minutes later, fittingly through Mayes who capped a neat passing move between Walker, Steans and Smith with a precise side-foot finish.

With the weight lifted, Melton began to play with freedom, and Smith doubled the lead in the 70th minute, making no mistake from 10 yards after Walker’s through ball put the striker clear.

Lovegrove then made a brave block to deny a low drive from the Bosworth winger.

Steans fired straight at the keeper, but Foxes finally finished the job with five minutes left.

Thorpe and Bates combined to send Smith clear down the right. The striker’s first effort was blocked, but as so many times this season he snapped up the rebound and whipped it past the keeper from a narrow angle, taking his personal tally to 36 league goals.

Foxes: C. Lovegrove, J. Nickolls, A. Lauchlan, G. Wilkinson A. Kotarba, B. Carroll, L. Thorpe, A. Walker, C. Ainge, H. Mayes, J. Bates, S. Smith, C. Steans, C. McNeight, A. Horobin.