Melton Town’s recent good run in league and cup was halted abruptly when they went down 4-1 at home to Burton Park on Saturday.
The game saw the welcome return of midfielder Jack Baker following his short stint at Kirby Muxloe, but also saw centre-half Joe Cooper limp off with a hamstring injury, with Chris Hibbitt having to move back into defence.
Town manager Steve Hendey believes the scoreline was harsh on his side.
“It didn’t reflect the overall game,” he said. “Burton were a big strong side with a lot of experience and it could easily have been a high-scoring draw.
“But we didn’t add to our score when we were well on top, and credit to Burton; they took their chances well and punished us for not defending well collectively.
“The big turning point for me was having to move Chris Hibbitt back from his midfield role where he’d been having a big influence on the game.
“Having said that Chris was excellent at the back and it was also good to see Jack Baker back in a Melton shirt.
“It was evident in the last half-an-hour that once we get the balance right he’ll be a real asset.”
Melton opened up with some crisp, neat football and dominated the early exchanges before taking a deserved lead.
Slick approach play between Mike Hendey, Liam Ambrose and Hibbitt found Coser who cut inside Dent and placed the ball beyond Clark for a sublime finish. The home side continued to have the better of things, but were dealt a blow when Cooper had to go off with the recurrence of a hamstring injury.
The reshuffle meant the influential Hibbitt moved back to centre-half, while Baker took up Hibbitt’s place in midfield.
It affected Melton’s rhythm, and Burton started to have more of a say in their attacking department with Forbes going close when his free-kick struck the top of the bar.
Liam Ambrose cut inside Bettles and seemed to have his heels clipped, but Melton’s penalty appeals went ignored by referee Harris.
Matt Hendey then turned inside Stevens and fired in a left-foot shot which Clark was happy to see hit the side-netting after another good move.
Well against the run of play Burton levelled when the ball broke kindly for Moore who crossed to the far post where Farrell took advantage of a static defence to equalise.
With half-time looming, Melton were dealt another sucker-punch when Baker broke clear and appeared to be fouled.
Burton switched the ball quickly out to Farrell on the left who delivered an excellent cross for Byrne to finish clinically.
Melton reshuffled their midfield for the second half and pressed hard for the equaliser.
They created several promising openings, but it was Burton who increased their lead when Byrne used his height and strength to direct a header past Witham.
To their credit, the hosts continued to believe there was something in the game for them and only two stunning Clark saves kept them out, first touching Mike Hendey’s free-kick onto the bar before somehow turning away Cameron Brookes’ near-post flick.
Ambrose drilled a shot across the face of goal, and Melton had strong appeals for another penalty turned down.
Burton then rubbed salt into the wound when they added a fourth with another clinical finish by Caswell to seal the points.