United Counties League: Melton Town boss fumes as red card scuppers hopes

Liam Ambrose in possession for Town
Liam Ambrose in possession for Town
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Frustrated Melton Town co-manager Steve Hendey believed a ‘harsh’ refereeing decision cost his side their first victory of the season on Saturday.

Town were leading 1-0 and dominating at home to Buckingham Town when centre-half Joe Cooper was shown a straight red card for handball.

Jamie Witham made his debut after switching from crosstown rivals Holwell Sports EMN-170814-181011002

Jamie Witham made his debut after switching from crosstown rivals Holwell Sports EMN-170814-181011002

Jelani Blair converted the penalty and then turned the screw against 10-man Melton with four goals in the final half-hour of the game to win 4-2 at Digital Deadline Park.

“It was really annoying and frustrating that a game we were well in control of turned on its head when Joe Cooper was sent off,” said Hendey.

“There was cover behind him and it wasn’t deliberate handball. We felt a penalty and a yellow card was enough punishment.”

But Hendey was pleased with his side’s improvement and performance following the 5-1 defeat at Olney on opening day.

“After a poor showing last time out we dominated today’s opponents and my only criticism is we didn’t finish them off when we should have done.

“We were encouraged by the lads’ performance for the first hour when it was 11 v 11 and it’s something we must take forward and build on.

“It’s early days yet, but if we show that form in the next game we will get some reward.”

Melton replaced injured skipper Tom Cooper with fit-again James Hollis, while Tom Burrows and Josh Clark came into the starting line-up along with goalkeeper Jamie Witham, newly signed from Holwell.

Melton were quickly into their stride, looking sharp in possession and working tirelessly to win the ball back with an intensity which unsettled the visitors.

Time after time, Tom Byrne and Clark got in behind the Buckingham defence and were unfortunate not to punish them with a goal their approach play deserved.

Byrne saw an effort beat keeper Thrussell, but crash off the under side of the bar, while Clark also beat Thrussell, but shot into the side-netting.

Joe Cooper was inches wide from converting Matt Hendey’s cross and also went close with two headers as Melton continued to dominate.

Burrows, Ambrose, Mike and Matt Hendey controlled the tempo, well supported by the overlapping Coser and Reeves.

Matt Hendey’s powerful header went just wide, and Melton finally got their just reward when a slick passing move involving Coser, Byrne and Mike Hendey was finished by Coser, calmly slotting home a low shot into the far corner.

The second half started more evenly, but Buckingham were still finding it difficult to penetrate Melton’s defence with Cooper, Hollis, Coser and Reeves looking solid.

Byrne was presented with a good chance when Thrussell spilled, but he shot wide under pressure.

With Melton looking comfortable the game turned on its head when Blair got to the byline, and his cross was half-cleared to Adams whose shot was blocked by Cooper.

The ball struck his arm from close range, but referee Brookes awarded a penalty and a red card despite keeper Witham and Hollis being on the goal-line.

And once Blair converted the penalty, Buckingham sprang to life with two goals in quick succession.

Melton refused to throw in the towel and were agonisingly close when Matt Hendey fizzed a low drive inches wide, and shortly after he cut inside and powered a shot into the roof of the net to give Melton hope at 3-2.

The home side pressed men forward in search of an equaliser, but the gamble didn’t pay off as Kelvin Osei-Addo side-footed home Tamaklot’s low cross to finish off a counter-attack.