There was encouragement in defeat for Melton Hockey Club First XI as they pushed league leaders Atherstone close for much of Saturday’s game.
With Melton in fourth, the final score of 6-2 reflected the gap between the teams in the East Midlands Division One table, but didn’t truly reflect the game itself.
The home side didn’t create too many opportunities, but for three-quarters of the match it had been a close-run thing.
And for the first 10 minutes it was all Melton as they controlled possession, and neutral observers would have been forgiven for mistaking who were the table-toppers.
But Atherstone are a good side and showed it by clinically converting their first attack to hit the front against the run of play.
Last time the two sides met, Melton fell apart after conceding, but this time they bounced back quickly.
Jacob Welch combined with Leighton Davies and the Atherstone defence parted, allowing Davies to drive into the area and fire in a fine equaliser.
The game was in the balance and what followed proved crucial as Adam Johns ran into the area and was fouled to earn a penalty corner.
A switch right to Rich Randall and a pass left to Dan Kendall opened up the goal, but the Atherstone keeper pulled off a stunning save.
The ball then ran loose to Matt Snow, and with only a defender on the line, his flicked shot looked a certain goal, but struck the defender’s raised stick and somehow deflected over the bar.
Moments later Atherstone went down the other end and earned their own penalty corner.
The visitors flicked their own shot at goal, but despite keeper Sam Harris somehow getting his stick to the ball, Melton weren’t as lucky as the ball this time deflected just under the bar.
It was a pivotal moment, but the game wasn’t over yet.
Atherstone scored again early in the second half to make it 3-1, but Melton hit back again.
Another switched penalty corner played in Leo Guy to shoot hard on his reverse side past the visiting keeper.
At 3-2, the game was tight again, but then came a few minutes which decided the game.
Atherstone won another penalty corner and this time they had their specialist drag flicker on the pitch to dispatch an unstoppable flick into the top corner.
Moments later he did it again with a carbon-copy goal, and out of nowhere Atherstone had put the game out of sight.
A scrappy sixth goal followed in the final minutes to add gloss to the scoreline which was harsh on Melton
But if the Reds can take this performance forward and build on it, better results are there for the taking.
Melton head to Derby on Saturday to take on Ramgarhia, hoping to get back to winning ways.