Appleton’s bullet earns Town a share of spoils

Rob Peet saved a penalty.
Rob Peet saved a penalty.
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A bumper crowd saw Melton keep up their promotion push despite being held by opponents Birstall United on Saturday.

Facing a side managed by former Town boss Shane Jarram and containing several former Melton players, the hosts started slowly and had keeper Peet to thank as they remained on level terms early in the game.

Former Melton players Aiden and Aaron Black combined well in the third minute as Aiden was bundled over in the box, but his brother saw the resulting spot kick saved to his right by Peet.

Melton then started to dominate the possession, causing the visitors’ defence to make a few panicked clearances.

Nathan Arnold and Reeve combined in the area, only to see Melton’s top scorer’s shot to be fumbled by the keeper and cleared off the line.

Thorpe had his first sniff of goal after 20 minutes when he received a through ball, but the keeper saved well.

Tom Manship was controlling midfield for most of the half and it was one of his diagonal crosses that eluded the defence and fell to Reeve but he could not keep his shot down as it flew over the bar.

Birstall stepped up during the closing stages of the first half with the Black brothers using the width of the pitch to cause problems but Fray and Rigby kept them at bay.

The start of the second half saw an Arnold freekick being tipped over the bar with the resulting corner not being cleared and Heath’s header hitting the bar.

Thorpe’s rebounded header was then tipped onto the bar.

Arnold was found clear with a great pass but again the keeper made a great finger tip save with the resulting corner falling to Reeve, whose power drive was blocked and Rigby followed-up with a shot and again was superbly blocked.

Then against the run of play Birstall took the lead.

A long ball was not dealt with by the Melton defence and a miscontrol led to Birstall’s new signing picking up the ball and slotting past Peet.

Birstall then sat back on their lead as Melton increased the pressure and created a number of chances to even up the game.

With just 10 minutes to go Melton were level.

A Manship corner was met by Appleton, whose bullet header hit the net before the keeper even moved.

The hosts now had the bit between their teeth and had the ball in the net from another header with just three minutes to go, only for the referee’s assistant to flag for a push.

With the last attack of the match Arnold picked up the ball on the edge of the area and danced past two defenders cut back and let go of a curling shot which thundered off a post.

The result leaves Melton four points behind the top two, Anstey Nomads and Lutterworth Town, and before they are due to return to league action they were due to travel to Friar Lane in the county cup.

Melton: Peet, Hollis, Fray (Lindley), Hibbitt (Reek), Appleton, Rigby, Heath (Baker), Manship, Reeve, Arnold, Thorpe.