Smith brace helps Melton Foxes U18s see off Birstall

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Striker Shaun Smith notched a first-half brace to set Melton Foxes U18s on the winning path against Birstall on Sunday.

The performance was typically post-Christmas with many of the team looking leg weary well before the final whistle.

Both teams started slowly but Foxes stunned Birstall with a goal after just five minutes when Smith collected the ball 25 yards out and rifled a shot into the top corner.

Birstall replied with two sharp attacks which nearly caught Melton napping before a fine move down the right ended with Lomas’ fine cross finding Smith who headed over from close range.

Smith shot wide and skipper Alex Walker had a shot charged down before Tom Dryell whipped over a low cross which eluded everyone.

Keeper Chris Lovegrove had to race from his goal to clear a dangerous long ball before two corners caused Melton problems, but Joe Nickolls cleared the danger.

Low shots from Rowland and Horobin forced saves before the Foxes added a second after 38 minutes.

Horobin was the provider with a powerful run from midfield before slipping the ball through to Smith just inside the area who gave the keeper no chance with a terrific 10-yard drive.

Foxes started the second half brightly with substitute Cameron Ainge firing over from six yards after cutting in from the right.

Birstall hit back with three corners, the third of which forced two goal-saving blocks.

Rowland, Walker and then Lomas all had the keeper diving to collect low shots before Smith broke on the left and fired over.

Tom Dryell teed up Rowland who blazed wildly wide before Lomas cut in from the left and hit a fine right foot narrowly over.

The visitors responded with three successive corners which the Foxes struggled to clear, but just when Birstall thought they had a foothold, Melton hit them with a third goal.

A move down the right seemed to have petered out, but the ball was rolled to full-back Aaron Doherty who lashed a 30-yarder into the top corner.

The Foxes will be pleased to have got the better of a Birstall team who had beaten them earlier in the season.

Nickolls, Gavin and Wilkinson were outstanding in defence and Horobin, Dryell and skipper Walker bossed midfield without being at their best.

Foxes: C. Lovegrove, R. Gavin, J. Nickolls, G. Wilkinson, J. Dawkin, A. Lomas, A. Horobin, A. Walker, T. Dryell, M. Rowland, S. Smith.