Melton Town show patience to see off stubborn Rushden

Callum Westwood pokes in Melton's second EMN-190219-104633002
Callum Westwood pokes in Melton's second EMN-190219-104633002
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A strong second-half showing helped Melton Town extend their winning run to 11 matches in all competitions with an ultimately comfortable win over Rushden and Higham.

Rushden travelled to Melton with a degree of optimism as the last team to defeat them back in November.

Westwood celebrates with Sam Wilson EMN-190219-104654002

Westwood celebrates with Sam Wilson EMN-190219-104654002

But Melton are a much more consistent animal these days and were looking to keep the pressure on the top two.

The hosts made their customary flying start and almost took the lead within five minutes when Westwood took the ball to the byline and passed inside to Reeve whose deft touch had to be cleared off the line by Russell.

And from the resulting corner, Hibbitt’s header was blocked on the line by Duroe.

A one-two with Westwood put the overlapping Rigby clear on goal, but his tremendous shot was well saved by Swailes.

Robbie Parsons made the crucial breakthrough just after the hour. Picture: Phil James EMN-190219-104643002

Robbie Parsons made the crucial breakthrough just after the hour. Picture: Phil James EMN-190219-104643002

Lever then sent a half-volley against the bar after Reeve’s turn and shot forced another good save.

Rushden grew into the game after their slow start and could have broken the deadlock themselves when Tyler broke into Melton’s area and played in Aidulis, but his strike went inches wide.

Mann sent a free-kick a foot wide of Peet’s far post and Cormack went close from 20 yards, but the hosts defended well.

Midway through the half Reeve went clean through the defence and beautifully chipped the keeper, but Russell again cleared from under his own bar.

Melton Town face both title rivals and a county cup final in a 12-day spell next month Picture: Phil James EMN-190219-104704002

Melton Town face both title rivals and a county cup final in a 12-day spell next month Picture: Phil James EMN-190219-104704002

Sam Wilson then headed wide when unmarked from Westwood’s cross as half-time somehow arrived goalless.

Rushden came out for the second half with renewed spirit and almost took the lead from the kick-off when Peet had to dive to his left to touch Jory Mann’s long-range shot round the post.

The resulting corner found Wills unmarked in the middle of the box, but he also headed wide.

Substitute Punter almost made a great impact when his first touch found Rigby on the wing, but his final touch found the arms of Swailes.

Then, to the relief of the large crowd, Melton’s perseverance paid off after 63 minutes.

The ball was played out wide to Reeve who beat Duroe and sent a short pass into Parsons who slotted into an open net.

Melton seemed to settle after going in front, and sure enough, minutes later it was two.

Stevenson sent a precise free-kick from the left across the face of the six-yard box where Westwood ghosted in to stab into the net at the far post.

Rushden briefly rallied when they brought on two attacking substitutions who immediately had pops at goal, but Wilson and Punter soon took control of the situation.

With just six minutes left Wilson’s fantastic header out of defence found Reeve in the middle of the park.

He drove at the defence and found Lever whose first-time drive was much too powerful for the keeper.

The result was sealed when sub Price’s first touch saw him break down the right flank and float in a great cross for Reeve who had time to place his header beyond the helpless Swailes for 4-0.

The score may have not told the whole story as Rushden proved again to be hard nut to crack, but it again showed that unlike the first part of the season, Melton are now ruthless.

Town stay level on points with second-placed Lutterworth and six behind leaders Anstey ahead of two local derbies against sides in the top six.

They start with a visit to Grantham on Saturday to play Harrowby before a home match against Blackstones the following weekend.

Town: Peet, Rigby, Gilchrist, Hibbitt, Leon Fray (Punter), Wilson, Westwood, Stevenson (Reek), Reeve, Parsons (Price), Lever.