Melton Town needed a stoppage-time winner from leading scorer Michael Reeve Melton Town to preserve their remarkable winning run at bottom-of-the-table Thrapston on Saturday.
Town began a season-defining run of five away games with what looked on paper a gentle start against a team four points adrift at bottom of Division One, but they were fighting for their UCL lives and pushed the visitors to the brink.
Melton almost took an early lead when Lever beat Bulmer down the left and sent in a low cross to Hammond whose first-time shot was tipped around the post by Fox. Minutes later Westwood sprayed the ball to Hammond from the halfway line, and he touched it on to Reeve, clear on goal, but Fox held his attempted lob.
The match then went into a stalemate as Thrapston defended with their lives and Melton overplayed.
Melton’s next chance came 10 minutes before the break when a long clearance out of defence bounced past Reeve and over the keeper, and brushed the outside of the post.
Thrapston almost took a shock lead when Levi Fray cut out a long diagonal cross, but the ball fell for Matty Smith whose half-volley forced Peet to tip over the bar.
Minutes later Peet was again called into action when a throw-in was headed on to Hart, two yards out, who somehow headed into the keeper’s hands.
Five minutes before the break the deadlock was finally broken when Hammond knocked Peet’s clearance on to Reeve who pulled the keeper wide before sliding the ball into the net from an acute angle.
It was nearly 2-0 when Reeve’s great header from Hill’s corner drew an equally great save from Fox.
The second half started much as the first finished with Melton on top.
Sub Arnold almost had a tap-in at the back post, but his shot was blocked on the line.
But on the hour a moment of madness let Thrapston back into the game when Melton failed to clear a ball into the area and Hart was heavily tackled while going away from goal and a penalty was awarded.
Louis Martin sent Peet the wrong way with the spot-kick for 1-1.
The hosts decided a point was a good result and proceeded to defer to old fashioned defending of kicking every ball long, and the tactic worked as Melton grew more frustrated.
Reeve had a good shot well saved and Hibbitt started and almost finished a move which had the keeper scrambling to tip the ball past the post.
With 10 minutes left, Lever’s floated cross found Hammond unmarked five yards out, but his header didn’t beat the keeper.
Thrapston went down to 10 men when Gates was shown a straight red card, but the home team continued to defend well as injury time approached.
With almost the last kick of the match, Arnold ran onto a ball down the side of the box, ran around Bates and found Reeve on the edge of the area.
He calmly took a touch before slamming the ball into the corner of the net to complete a 17th straight win with his 33rd goal of the season.
A poor performance, but Town showed the grit needed to challenge for a title.
They move on to one of the biggest matches in the club’s history when they visit Anstey on Tuesday (ko 7.45pm) knowing a win will lift them above their rivals and within a point of leaders Lutterworth Town.
Town: Peet, Westwood, Levi Fray (Rigby), Gilchrist, Leon Fray, Wilson, Hammond, Hill (Hibbitt), Reeve, Stevenson (Arnold), Lever