After a difficult few weeks with cancelled games and back-to-back defeats, Melton Hockey Club Firsts returned to winning ways at Leicester on Saturday.
Away to a youthful Leicester side, the Reds produced a much improved performance, dominating from the first minute and spending most of the game in their opponents’ half.
Leicester were set up to counter-attack, with enough on the break to make for an exciting game.
Melton struck first in the opening minutes as captain James Hewitt smartly turned Rich Randall’s free-hit into the area where Dan Kendall deflected the ball into the corner of the goal.
A string of Melton penalty corners followed as the Reds found the confidence they’d been lacking in recent weeks.
A switch to the right found Randall, who again passed to Hewitt in space.
The sprawling Leicester goalkeeper made a smart save, but the ball bounced loose for Kendall to half-volley his second.
Leicester’s best hopes came when the ball was turned over, and frustratingly for Melton one such turnover allowed a home forward to fire a shot which was deflected into the net.
But Melton were in no mood to let the setback drain their returning confidence.
Young Freddie Welch was in fine form, winning the ball back high up the pitch, and quickly finding Pete Taylor down the right.
Taylor looked up and crossed for Sam Pollard who controlled and carefully tucked the ball past the keeper.
A 3-1 half-time lead was the least the Reds deserved, but the game wasn’t won yet.
They needed another strong start after the break and got it from another penalty corner, Leo Guy dragging the ball goalwards and the onrushing Kendall completed his hat-trick.
Melton gave Leicester a glimmer of hope when scrappy play allowed the home side to scramble a second.
And two almost became three when a penalty stroke was awarded after the ball hit a Melton defender on the goal-line.
It was a key moment, and having dived to his right, Melton goalkeeper Sam Ranger then managed to get back across his line and stop the ball that had almost gone behind him.
It was a wake-up call for the Reds who pressed forward with renewed concentration.
A sweeping move from the back restored Melton’s three-goal advantage.
Randall’s flick to the right allowed Guy to turn the ball inside to Hewitt who beat his man and advanced towards the Leicester area.
He swept the ball left to Kendall who turned the ball into the net for his fourth – a back-to-front goal which epitomised Melton’s fluid passing play.
A 5-2 scoreline would have been a fair reflection of the game, but Leicester added a late consolation when a long aerial pass deflected to a forward who rounded the keeper to score.
Melton ran out comfortable winners in reality, and host Northampton Saints on Saturday in a re-arranged league fixture.