Melton Foxes U17s within a point of title after Whetstone win

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In-form striker Shaun Smith netted four times at title rivals Whetstone to send Melton Foxes Under 17s back to the top of Division One.

The win left Melton needing just a point at Market Bosworth tonight (Thursday, ko 6pm) to be crowned champions.

On a bumpy surface, Melton started better with skipper Joe Nickolls returning after his lengthy suspension.

Cameron Ainge’s low cross caused panic before Smith shot wide when well placed after combining with Cameron Steans and Bradley Carroll.

The home side threatened with several corners, but keeper Chris Lovegrove did well to tidy up, and then dived to his right to push a shot round the post.

And Foxes took a 12th-minute lead when Steans and Carroll combined to send Smith racing through the middle and the striker blasted a low shot past the advancing keeper.

Steans then beat two defenders on the edge of the area, but his fierce shot was well saved.

But the Foxes did make it 2-0 three minutes into the second half when Alex Horobin won possession in midfield and linked with Steans. A high ball into the area found Smith who, with his back to goal, turned and hooked in a superb shot.

Whetstone hit back just two minutes later when a fierce low drive beat Lovegrove’s dive.

The rejuvenated hosts forced Melton to defend in numbers, but George Wilkinson and Adam Lauchlan were in commanding form to defy them, while Lovegrove expertly tipped over another fierce drive.

Just as Whetstone were getting a foothold, Melton scored a decisive third with 15 minutes left when Steans put Smith clear to complete his hat-trick from six yards.

Five minutes later Smith completed the scoring, forcing the centre-half off the ball and scoring on the rebound after his initial effort was brilliantly blocked.

Whetstone demanded a free-kick, protests which saw three home players red-carded.

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