Melton Town denied season finale win by late Rushden equaliser

Jordan Cufflin-Stableford put Town ahead with a fine finish EMN-180905-122922002
Jordan Cufflin-Stableford put Town ahead with a fine finish EMN-180905-122922002
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A late equaliser denied Melton Town the spoils in an entertaining final league match of the season on Saturday.

Rushden and Higham levelled with just two minutes to go, but the performance offered Town’s supporters hope for next campaign as they ended their second season in United Counties League in 16th place.

Ben Lapworth celebrates putting Melton ahead for the second time against Rushden EMN-180905-122933002

Ben Lapworth celebrates putting Melton ahead for the second time against Rushden EMN-180905-122933002

Neither side could improve their position in the league, but Melton started in a determined spirit and played with a confidence they hadn’t showed in recent weeks.

Coser and Fury linked up well down the right and caused problems, but the first chance of the game came Rushden’s way midway through the half when a defensive mix-up. But the first shot was parried by Middleton and the rebound fired well over the bar.

The visitors almost broke the deadlock minutes later when a shot from the left edge of the box struck the crossbar, and Middleton pulled off a brilliant flying finger-tip save to deny Walker on the rebound.

The resulting corner flashed across goal without anyone to tap in.

Melton’s response was immediate, and Coser found himself one-on-one with the keeper who used his body to block the effort.

And the hosts went ahead after 33 minutes when Middleton’s long kick caught out Rushden’s defence. Their mis-kicked clearance found Cufflin-Stableford unmarked on the edge of the area to drive a first-time shot into the bottom corner.

Melton’s inability to hold a lead came back to haunt them as Rushden immediately replied.

Hibbitt gave away a clumsy free-kick on the edge of the area. It was driven low under the wall and found Hall just three yards out who turned and knocked it into an empty net.

The second half started with both teams trying to command midfield without success.

Coser went close with a 30-yard strike, and Cufflin-Stableford outmuscled the defence, but shot straight at the keeper.

But with 15 minutes left Melton took a deserved lead.

Vernon’s run down the right beat two defenders before crossing for Lapworth whose great header was parried by the keeper, but looped a header, on the rebound, over the keeper.

Rushden mounted attack after attack to wrestle back a point and were rewarded with just two minutes left.

They were awarded a soft free-kick on the edge of the area, and Hall bent his shot around the wall and into the bottom-right corner, giving Middleton no chance.

Rushden could have won the game with the last kick, when a rasping shot was blocked on the line.

But a fair result for two teams who played the game in a good spirit.