Melton Foxes U17s hold league leaders Barwell

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Melton Foxes battled all the way to earn a deserved point at league leaders Barwell to end their 100 per cent record.

Keeper Connor McNeight was injured in the warm-up and replaced by Chris Lovegrove who proved an admirable replacement.

Barwell set their stall out in the first 15 minutes with tackles coming thick and fast, but the Foxes showed their mettle with uncompromising resilience.

The Foxes stunned the hosts with the opening goal after 18 minutes when Adam Lauchlan floated a free-kick into the area, and the bouncing ball ran loose for Shaun Smith to flick the ball home from close-range.

Melton thought they had gone further ahead in their very next attack when a free-kick rebounded to Cameron Steans who calmly side-footed home, only to be adjudged offside.

Barwell pressed and had the ball in the net in the 35th minute, but it was ruled out for pushing.

Smith went close when he raced on to a bouncing through ball, but his header over the advancing keeper was thwarted by a desperate goal-line clearance.

Smith again saw a header beat the keeper only to be denied by another last-ditch clearance.

The second half began at breakneck speed with Barwell pushing for an equaliser, but Nickolls, Bates, Lauchlan and Wilkinson worked overtime to keep them out.

Melton’s defence was finally beaten after 65 minutes when a free-kick into the Foxes’ area deflected to a Barwell forward who fired home from four yards.

Foxes hit back and Steans’ superb through ball put Smith clear, but the home keeper made a tremendous point-blank save.

Strong runs from subs Ainge and Mayes nearly ended in goals, and Ainge’s corner flashed across goal with no-one able to add the finish.

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