Melton Hockey: Thirds renew promotion hopes with weekend double header

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Melton Thirds got their promotion challenge back on track last weekend, after a series of poor results had put them in danger of falling out of contention.

First up were Kettering, who experienced a sobering visit to Melton on Saturday. They let in eight goals without reply to give the hosts their biggest win of the season.

Melton’s success was built on excellent defensive work from Pete Taylor, Gareth Hacking, Doug Richardson and Jon Leeman who snuffed out Kettering’s attacks long before they could trouble the increasingly bored Liam Cliffe in goal.

Hacking, Taylor and Leeman also contributed with a goal apiece, the latter two firing in unstoppable penalty corners.

Despite not scoring himself, Ben Hopla racked up a string of assists, continuing his excellent season.

Jack Riley continued his goal-a-game streak, and striker Nick Icely added another three to his collection as Kettering slumped to their heaviest defeat of the season.

On Sunday, Melton travel to Mansfield for a rearranged fixture.

This allowed Mansfield to put out a much stronger side than their league position would suggest, and gave a makeshift Melton side a much bigger challenge than expected.

The match was played in atrocious conditions of driving rain and sleet, and both teams had to work hard to stay mobile and keep out the cold.

Mansfield had the best of the early exchanges, but Melton looked dangerous on the break, forcing several short corners which came to nothing.

Mansfield took the lead against the run of play before Jack Riley kept up his goal-a-game record at just the right moment, finishing well to restore parity.

Matt Courtman then surprised Mansfield with his speed, bursting through from the back to fire home an unstoppable shot.

Umpiring was getting more and more difficult in the freezing rain and Mansfield took advantage of a poor decision to blast the ball past stand-in keeper Nigel Shelton.

But Melton were to have the last word, with Jason Creed losing his marker to score the winner.

Melton travel to promotion rivals Newark next with the winner in prime position to move up a league next year.