Melton Town almost pulled off a dramatic late rescue act on Tuesday evening as they missed out on a first Senior County Cup final.
Town fans turned up at Meadow Lane, in Birstall, for their rescheduled semi-final hoping to upset the form guide against NKF Burbage and reach their first county final in 10 years.
Although Melton were the higher league outfit of the two sides, NKF went into the tie full of confidence, with just one defeat in two seasons as they chase back-to-back promotions in the Midland Football League.
This showed as soon as they kicked off, with Burbage camped in Town’s half for the opening 15 minutes and peppering the goal with crosses and goal attempts.
And the deadlock was eventually broken when Tom Smith’s run on to a through ball beat the offside trap and his first-time finish found the bottom corner, giving Melton goalkeeper Middleton no chance.
This seemed to wake Melton up, and they started to control the game through Chris Hibbitt and Jack Baker.
Their first real effort on goal came after 21 minutes when a corner found Kieran Foster unmarked in the box, but his half-volley shaved the outside of the post.
Minutes later a long throw from George Coser was flicked on by Hibbitt, and as the ball pinballed around the six-yard box, Burbage managed to clear off the line.
NKF started to take back control of the game as they outmuscled Melton in all areas.
Smith had three chances in succession which should have been converted, but were foiled by desperate goal-line defence and poor headers.
Burbage nearly doubled their lead right on half-time when a corner was swung in and appeared to be cleared off the line by their own player.
The clearance fell to Adam Zia who nutmegged Coser to reach the byline, and his cutback found Smith in front of an open goal three yards out, but the striker scuffed his shot.
The second half started the same way as the first with NKF Burbage once more on the attack.
It took only 10 minutes for NKF to find the net again when a floated cross hit the bar and came out for Smith to hammer home.
But the effort was bizarrely ruled out for offside.
However, on the hour mark NKF did double their lead when a short corner was whipped in low and found Zia unmarked to finish from six yards.
Middleton made several good saves in the Melton goal as NKF went for the kill.
Melton did get back into the game with just four minutes to go when a Middleton kick beat the whole of the midfield.
Foster ran on to it and his first-time shot found the bottom corner to halve the deficit.
Melton went close to pulling off a miraculous comeback as several chances to equalise went begging as NKF defended desperately.
But Burbage deserved their place in the final, while Melton are left to salvage their league season.
They have 11 games to play in the United Counties League in the final six weeks and a chance to end the season on a positive note, but their attitude and confidence will first have to change.