Melton Town closed to within three points of top spot in United Counties League Division One with a comfortable 3-0 home win over basement side Lutterworth on Tuesday evening.
The result extended Town’s unbeaten league run to 16 games, containing 13 wins, and more pertinently to manager Tom Manship gave his side a 10-point buffer in the promotion places as they approach a tough sequence of fixtures.
Before kick-off of their third home game in eight days, Town’s form was recognised by the UCL who presented them with the Division One Team of the Month award for January, having taken 19 points from a possible 21.
Athletic kicked off bottom of the table, but with a resurgence of form, and Melton were taking nothing for granted, and started the match on the front foot. And they were ahead after just three minutes when Tom Harris made a good run down the right and pulled the ball back to Sam Beaver whose floated cross found Laithan Hammond to hammer a shot into the bottom corner.
Town had a strong shout for a penalty when Hammond ran clear in the box and appeared to be pulled back by English, but the referee waved away the protests.
Chris Hibbitt hit the side-netting when unmarked at the back post from the resulting corner, but Melton doubled their lead after 11 minutes.
Nathan Arnold’s corner was met by Beaver whose powerful header beat Hartley.
Melton bossed possession and their patient passing game was rewarded with a third midway through the half.
Benjamin beat Sullivan in a tussle on the byline and cut in and saw his low shot from an acute angle well saved by Hartley.
But as the ball was cleared, Harris floated the ball back over the defence for Arnold to control and fire a shot low into the corner.
This looked like the start of a hiding, but the visitors had other ideas as they put men behind the ball and defended resolutely.
The only other real chance of the half fell to Lutterworth, but Astil’s 20-yard effort flew well wide.
After the break, Sandy found himself goalside of Cioyo, but his rushed shot went inches wide, and minutes later, Finn Thomas went clean through for Athletic but fired wide as Town keeper Rob Peet closed the gap.
Top scorer Zak Munton came on as substitute on the hour and his first touch was a shot from the edge of the box which forced Hartley to save low down.
Bucalossi made a run and played in Sandy whose shot had Hartley parrying the ball around the post, and from the corner, Bucalossi’s effort was cleared off the line by Blockley.
Cummings then drove into the box after an impressive run and was brought down by English, but the referee waved play on, and Town had to play the final 10 minutes with 10 men after Cummings limped off injured.
But Town comfortably kept a 10th clean sheet within that unbeaten league run.
They now face six successive games against tough opposition, starting on Saturday with the visit of Birstall (kick-off 3pm), who held Melton to a 2-2 draw last month.
And on Tuesday, Town host Saffron (ko 7.45pm).
Town: Peet, Beaver, Benjamin, Hibbitt (Manship), Gilchrist (Cummings), Fray, Harris, Bucalossi, Sandy, Hammond (Munton), Arnold.