Melton-Holwell derby attracts biggest step six crowd in country despite Storm Deirdre
Supporters defied the appalling conditions of Storm Deirdre as Saturday's Melton-Holwell derby attracted the country's best attendance in step six.
Despite temperatures which hovered just above freezing, a windchill from stormforce gusts which dropped it several degrees below that, and relentless icy rain, 192 hardy souls turned out at Signright Park for the first-ever league match between the town rivals.
And it was the home fans who went home the happier as the match went to the form book with third-placed Melton winning 4-1.
“It was the biggest attendance on Saturday for the whole of the country at this level,” said Town co-manager Tom Manship.
“Nearly 200 fans came out and made a great noise and I think there would have been at least another 100 more if the weather hadn’t been so bad.
“Our attendances are up 140 per cent this season which shows how much we are growing.”
Trailing 4-0 at half-time, Holwell showed character to score the only goal of the second half, and went close on a few more occasions.
But they were doomed by another lightning start from Town who scored almost straight from kick-off and were 2-0 up within five minutes.
Holwell manager Neil Miller said: “Saturday was about as difficult as it gets; they came right at us in the first 10 minutes and we couldn’t, or didn’t, deal with it.
“We set a plan and strategy of how we wanted to play and within five minutes that had gone.
“Within 30 seconds you are 1-0 down and everything you have spoken about of where to press and squeeze flies out of the window.
“At 2-0 the contest was almost over which is tough to take, but our priorities are slightly different to Melton at the moment. We are rebuilding and regenerating.”
Manship added: “We have been rehearsing a move from kick-off in training for the last two weeks, and for it to come off was really pleasing for me and Jon (Stevenson - co-manager).
“Holwell hadn’t touched the ball before it was in the back of the net.
“None of the teams we have played this season have started better than us; we like to get out of the blocks quickly.
“Some of our football in the first half was very good; we made the pitch as big as possible in possession and tried to penetrate going forward.
“I thought it was a good standard. Both teams tried to play the right way and there was no nastiness in the game.”
Both teams strove manfully to ensure the football rather than the extreme weather made the headlines, but deteriorating conditions made the final quarter almost impossible.
“It was the worst weather I have ever played in,” Manship said.
“The first half it was very bad, but in the second half it became unplayable for the last 25 minutes.
“The ball was uncontrollable unless it was pumped along the ground.”
Miller agreed: “The conditions were probably the worst I have ever seen and enormous credit goes to both sets of players that they got the ball down and played football.
“Our midfield played the game really well, but it’s those concentration lapses that are hurting us.
“At the moment we are playing well for 60 minutes, but those periods where we switch off, and particularly in the first 20 minutes, are killing us.
“We are putting our heart and soul into every training session and every game and we will do it; I’m super confident of that.”