Holwell Sports booked their place in the Senior County Cup semi-finals thanks to a dominant first-half display at Melton Town.
Melton had 10 days to prepare for the game after a blank weekend, but were missing the cup-tied Black brothers and Mike Hendy along with the suspended Adam Bishop, while Tom Byrne pulled up injured in the warm-up.
Sports manager John Webster had a settled side, but midfield lynchpin Chris Hibbitt was asked to move into the cebtre of defence to replace Woodcock.
The hosts were stunned when Hibbitt headed Holwell in front after just four minutes, given too much room as a free-kick was swung in from the right.
The visitors piled forward in a breathless opening half-hour played at a suitably frenetic pace for a first meeting between the sides in six-and-a-half years,
Hibbitt again found himself free at the back post as Kieran Foster whipped in a smart corner, but couldn’t repeat the trick and headed the ball into the ground.
Laithan Hammond tormented Melton’s shaky defence and was denied by a smart stop from former Holwell keeper Richard Cragg when played through one-on-one.
Melton seemed to be growing into the game a little as Jordan Stableford-Cufflin cut in and fizzed a shot just over the bar.
Midway through the half, however, Holwell were awarded a penalty when Harry Calver brought down Hammond as he again threatened to break clear.
But Foster’s penalty was at a comfortable height for Cragg who made a smart save, diving low to his right, and Tom Harris fired the rebound over.
Just three minutes later, though, and Holwell had their second when Joe Williams bundled in the latest of a string of corners in off his knee.
Melton had to wait for the half-hour mark for their first shot on target, but Steve Truman’s long-range effort was straight at Holwell keeper Jamie Witham.
The game continued to be remarkably open with Aaron Ridout clearing off the line from John Love’s angled shot as Melton’s threat increased, especially down the left through Jordan Cufflin-Stableford.
But with half-time approaching, Holwell made it 3-0 with a stunning effort from Hammond. His brilliant touch and turn took him past his marker in one movement before lashing a shot across Cragg into the far corner.
Yet Town gave themselves a lifeline in added time.
Ash Palfreyman’s shot from the edge of the box was heading wide until Hibbitt deflected it past his own keeper.
Melton brought on Alex Horobin at half-time to bolster the defence, and the youngster looked assured as the hosts started brightly.
They saw plenty of possession but were unable to create clear chances as Holwell looked to manage their lead and spring the counter-attack.
And it was the visitors who continued to create the more dangerous moments with Foster glancing a header just wide and Cragg having to come out bravely to deny Hammond when a backpass fell short.
Shannon Myring and Jack Baker built well from the back with some neat passing, but once again the visitors’ defence was able to soak up the pressure and make the right blocks when needed.
Myring then did superbly to block a shot from David Hazeldine who looked a certain scorer from 10 yards after another powerful run into the box from Hammond.
Town continued to press and probe, forcing Ridout to head clear from under his own bar, but the visitors remained resolute and solid at the back.
And once more it was Cragg who was forced into serious action as the clock ticked down in a bad tempered second half, getting down well once more to save from Foster.
Melton: Cragg, Lapworth, Mann (c), Calver, Clayton (Horobin 45), Myring, Baker, Truman, Palfreyman, Love, Cufflin-Stableford (Griffin 87). Subs not used: King, Thorpe.
Holwell: Witham, Ridout, Bitmead, Hibbitt, Chapman, Stevenson, Williams, Hazeldine, Foster, Hammond, Harris.