Melton Town’s title race is all but run after a narrow defeat at United Counties League Division One leaders Lutterworth Town on Saturday.
The 1-0 loss, which followed defeat at Anstey just 10 days earlier, left Town seven points adrift of Lutterworth, and six behind second-placed Anstey with just three games left.
The visit to Lutterworth was the last of five successive away games which also brought a penalty shoot-out defeat in the County Senior Cup final last week.
Saturday’s match started at a fast pace, with both teams looking nervous.
Jordan Small had the first chance when he used his pace across the edge of the area to strike a shot which had Town goalkeeper Rob Peet down well to save.
Riley’s floating cross nearly found the top corner and again forced Peet into action to tip over the bar.
Melton’s first effort on target came after 15 minutes when Lever’s cross found Laithan Hammond unmarked, but he had to stretch to get his header on target and home keeper Holdom saved comfortably.
Both teams were finding it difficult to breach their opponent’s defence, and the poor pitch made passing unpredictable.
Riley nearly broke the deadlock on the half-hour with a run down the left which saw him cut infield and shoot into the side-netting.
By half-time the match had become a niggly affair with more free-kicks than efforts on goal.
But as in the cup final, the second half saw Melton increase the pressure as the hosts resorted to defending for a draw.
The only chance before the hour was an Arnold free-kick which found Wilson and his looping header almost caught out Holdom as it dropped over the bar.
Then in the 66th minute, the hosts took a priceless lead.
Warren floated in a diagonal cross, and Tendai Daire rose above the defence to plant a header past Peet and into the bottom corner of the net to send the large home support into raptures.
Straight from the restart, Robbie Parsons got himself into the Lutterworth area and passed to Michael Reeve.
He in turn left the ball to Hill, but his low shot was well saved by Holdom.
With just nine minutes left, the hosts nearly doubled their lead when a free-kick was played into the Melton box and found Daire whose header needed Callum Westwood to clear from under his own bar.
The final chance of the game came when Peet’s clearance fell to Daire whose shot at an open goal flew inches over the bar.
It capped a disappointing week for Melton where they had played the better football in both games only to come away with nothing.
They next move on to a home game on Saturday against relegation battlers Raunds with promotion not mathematically over just yet.
Following that is the big Easter Monday derby with Holwell at Welby Road. Both matches kick off at 3pm.
Town: Peet, Westwood, Rigby (Parsons), Hibbitt, Punter, Wilson, Arnold, Gilchrist (Hill), Reeve, Hammond, Lever.