Melton Town missed out on one of their results of the season as they let a two-goal lead slip at high-flying Buckingham on Saturday.
On a poor playing surface, exacerbated by heavy rain in the build-up, Jack Baker and Aiden Black put Town 2-0 up inside half-an-hour.
But a hat-trick from the UCL’s leading scorer Leon Lobjoit and injuries to Baker and Grant Ryder left the visitors empty-handed on their trip home to Leicestershire.
Co-manager Steve Hendey said: “We caused them a lot of problems in the first half-an-hour and for an hour we were the better side, using the wings well.
“We needed to hold the lead longer because a 2-0 lead on that pitch takes a lot to recover from, but we let them back into it which was disappointing.
“It was the worst pitch I have seen this season. It was wet, very heavy and there was long grass in the corners - where there was grass.
“They like to play football and we certainly do, so the pitch spoilt it. We had to tell our players ‘no football on this’; you have to play to the conditions.”
The home side had an early goal disallowed after a confusign passage of play. Town stopped when the linesman raised his flag, but the referee waved play on, allowing the hosts to net, only to then overturn his decision after consulting his assistant.
And Melton took full advantage by taking a deserved lead after 25 minutes.
Aiden Black pulled the ball back from the byeline for Jack Baker who had his first shot blocked, but kept his composure to round the keeper and a defender and drill a low shot into the net.
Within minutes the visitors had doubled their lead when Aiden Black outpaced the Buckingham defence to slot in.
It was no more than Town deserved and they could have been even further ahead before the hosts pulled one back with a rare attack, thanks to an excellent finish from Michael McKenzie.
And Buckingham were soon level when Town’s defence allowed a corner all the way through their six-yard box to the far post where Lobjoit headed in.
Melton roared back, creating further chances to retake the lead.
They had strong penalty shouts waved away when Black seemed to be shoved in the back as he shaped to fire in the rebound after the keeper had blocked the initial shot.
Aaron Black then went clean through, but the ball took a wicked bobble off the pitch onto the Melton forward’s knee and the chance was lost.
The big turning point came after the break when Melton lost Baker and Ryder within a matter of minutes, to ankle and hamstring problems respectively.
Buckingham took advantage of the enforced reshuffle and went ahead when Lobjoit, who scored five in the reverse fixture back in November. neatly lobbed Town keeper Ash King.
The visitors were now under the cosh against the Division One title chasers and fell further behind when King was dispossessed as he tried to clear, and Lobjoit added his 61st goal of a remarkable season.
The result lifted Buckingham to third and within six points of leaders Daventry, while Melton stay 12th.
Baker will be assessed, but Ryder will be out for Saturday’s visit of Blackstones to Melton Sports Village (kick-off 3pm).
Melton: A. King, K. Clayton, T. Cooper, A. Horobin, L. Fray, Mike Hendey, G. Ryder, Aaron Black, J. Baker, J. Cufflin-Stableford, Aiden Black. Sub: G. Williams.