Melton Foxes hit back to give Stoneygate the blues

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Melton Foxes recovered from a nightmare start to run out convincing winners at Stoneygate and retain top spot.

Still without suspended skipper Joe Nickolls, the Foxes also lost keeper Connor McNeight before half-time with a neck injury and was replaced by Chris Lovegrove.

Melton started on top, but without finding any real cohesion, and should have done better when Cameron Ainge’s fine run and cross flashed across goal.

Foxes were dealt another blow after five minutes when Lewis Thorpe went off with an ankle injury to be replaced by Bradley Carroll.

Ainge’s corner dropped invitingly in front of goal, but Carroll, Lauchlan and Smith failed to get the final touch.

And Melton were stunned when a Stoneygate free-kick from 35 yards was flicked towards goal and the ball slipped through Lovegrove’s grasp and trickled in.

Five minutes later the visitors were lucky not to fall further behind when the home skipper fired a penalty over the bar awarded for a push by Adam Lauchlan.

The Foxes suddenly clicked into gear and three corners by Ainge all produced chances, but the home defence scrambled each clear.

On the half-hour Melton levelled when Kotarba and Wilkinson worked the ball forward for Smith to beat two defenders and crash a shot past the keeper.

Second later another corner found Lauchlan at the far post who sent a delightful half-volley into the roof of the net.

Spurred on, Carroll cut inside from the left and past the full-back before firing in a fierce cross-shot for 3-1.

Horobin and Lauchlan both went close with headers before Steans made it four with a superb volley from the edge of the area.

Melton retained their hold on the game after half-time with keeper Lovegrove mostly a spectator as Walker, Carroll and Horobin controlled midfield, and forwards Smith, Ainge and Steans threatened.

Sub Harrison Mayes was soon in the action with a fine run and cross.

Steans and Smith exchanged passes on the edge of the area before the latter raced clear to chip the keeper.

Smith drove over the bar from six yards, but did complete his hat-trick when he finished off more neat passes between Carroll and Steans with a fierce right-footed shot after 75 minutes.

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