Melton Town strengthened their bid for a top 10 finish in the United Counties League Division One with an entertaining win over county rivals Lutterworth.
The victory moved Town up to 11th, and just two points behind Lutterworth in ninth, with three games of the season to go.
The result was all the more satisfying for manager Steve Hendey considering the personnel he was missing for Saturday’s game at Digital Deadline Park.
He said: “We had Jack Baker, Jordan Cufflin-Stableford, Aaron Black, Grant Ryder and Tom Byrne unavailable, but still had a good squad out today and that’s encouraging going forward.
“I knew Lutterworth would be a good footballing side as I’ve had some battles against Mike English’s teams in the past.
“They kept possession better than us at the start, but we still made some excellent chances.
“Once we’d settled down after Ash (Palfreyman) gave us the lead we looked in control, but we need to learn how to manage a lead better if we are going to push on next term.”
The early play was even with Lutterworth enjoying the better possession as Melton’s final ball was often wayward, but despite this they still carved out and squandered three glorious chances.
As Melton settled they went close to opening their account when Love hit the bar and Joe Cooper had a close-range effort blocked on the line.
Town tweaked their formation to counter Lutterworth’s midfield threat and within minutes the move paid off when Ash Palfreyman cleverly steered Adam Bishop’s pass beyond Pickering to put the host ahead.
Lutterworth continued to probe, but found it difficult to create clear chances, while Melton had two more golden chances to increase their lead.
They were made to pay for their wastefulness when a quick Lutterworth break ended in an excellent finish by Weston, but only after Melton twice failed to clear the danger.
The home side started the second half brightly and were soon back in front when Aiden Black showed excellent control from a long clearance before beating Coyne and crossing for Palfreyman to stab home.
Melton seemed comfortable, but once again offered the visitors a way back with a soft penalty when Ash King was adjudged to have brought down Callum Riley. Jones converted the spot kick to level.
Despite the setback Town showed their resolve and with Bishop, Kieran Clayton and Mike Hendey controlling midfield, they took the lead for a third time when Clayton slammed home from close range after another corner caused havoc for Lutterworth’s defence.
The visitors continued to play some neat football, but Fray, Alex Horobin, Joe and Tom Cooper were not about to let the lead slip again.
Melton had looked the more threatening side throughout and made it four when Palfreyman completed a fine hat-trick with another excellent finish.
Liam Ambrose replaced Palfreyman and almost put the seal on a fine Melton move, but Pickering just got to Lapworth’s through ball to thwart the striker.
On Saturday, Town host Oakham in a re-arranged derby postponed from the Christmas period. Kick-off is 3pm.
Town: King, Horobin, J. Cooper, T. Cooper (c), Fray, Hendey, Clayton, Bishop, Aiden Black, Love, Palfreyman (Ambrose). Subs: Calver, Lapworth.