Melton Town out of League Cup after penalty shoot-out

Ash Palfryeman is Division One's top scorer with 16 goals in 17 starts
Ash Palfryeman is Division One's top scorer with 16 goals in 17 starts

Melton Town pushed Premier Division opponents Harborough Town all the way before bowing out of the league cup on penalties.

Having knocked out Premier side Northampton ON Chenecks in the preliminary round, the cup tie was the first match under floodlights at Digital Deadline Park.

Melton Town line up before their first floodlit fixture at Digital Deadline Park EMN-161210-155613002

Melton Town line up before their first floodlit fixture at Digital Deadline Park EMN-161210-155613002

The game started at a frantic pace with the first real chance coming in the 13th minute when a corner broke to Jack Baker on the edge of the area whose fierce strike was parried by the keeper.

Jordan Cufflin-Stableford was next to try his luck and his good 25-yard effort hit the left upright. Melton again looked likely to take the lead when Ash Palfreyman forced another save from close range after Tom Byrne’s cross from the right.

But Harborough opened the scoring on 25 minutes when a quick attack down the right flank caught Melton’s defence napping and Sutherland finished from close range.

The game was still being played at a quick pace as both teams battled hard in midfield. Melton should have equalised when Baker played in Steve Truman clean through on goal, but the keeper pushed his shot around the post.

Cragg also came to Melton’s rescue with an excellent full-stretch save from a corner, tipping a shot around the post.

Melton got a deserved equaliser on the stroke of half-time when they broke at pace and Byrne’s ball across the box found Cufflin-Stableford at the far post to smash home his fourth goal in three games.

Byrne was again causing problems down the right after half-time as he beat his man with great skill and delivered another fine ball to the back post which was turned away for a corner.

Gus Gentlemen replaced Lapworth shortly before the hour and Melton soon had to replace the injured Slater with Horobin. They then used their final substitute after 63 minutes when John Love came on for Byrne.

Harborough spilt the Melton defence, but Sutherland couldn’t direct his header at goal, while Gentlemen’s header was inches wide of the right-hand post.

Baker and Shannon Myring were brilliant in the centre of midfield and bossed the game.

Love’s glorious ball from the right then picked out Palfreyman at the back post, but his side-footed shot struck the post with four minutes left. The 90-plus crowd urged Melton on as the game went into extra time.

Harborough started the first period better, but good defending from Calver. Horobin and Mann kept them out as Melton continued to work hard. The visitors had a good chance, but the shot was mis-hit.

Harborough again imposed the pressure in the second period with Myring forced into a last-ditch tackle, while Palfreyman headed just wide from a corner, but the game went to penalties.

Harborough blasted the first spot kick high and wide before Palfreyman sent the keeper the wrong way.

Cragg got a hand to Harborough’s second but couldn’t keep it out and Gentlemen’s penalty was saved.

The next two penalties were converted to make it 2-2, but when Harborough missed their fourth, Mann’s kick was also saved.

Harborough scored their fifth, and Love’s final kick was again saved to send the visitors through.

Melton: Cragg, Slater (Horobin), Calver, Mann, Myring, Baker, Lapworth (Gentlemen), Byrne (Love), Truman, Palfreyman, Cufflin-Stableford.

Alex Fairbrother Builders Man-of-the-Match: Shannon Myring.