Courageous BULWELL might have lost their incredible 100% record, plus their place in their Notts FA Senior County Cup.
But in the most prestigious match of their history on Tuesday night, they actually won lots of new admirers and strengthened their growing reputation.
Yes, they were pipped 2-1 by high-ranking Carlton Town in front of a sizeable crowd of 239 at Basford United’s Greenwich Avenue ground.
But the Notts Senior League champions made a mockery of the gulf in divisions between themselves and The Millers, who play alongside Hucknall Town in Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
Indeed a posse of ex-Hucknall players littered the Carlton side, including Reuben Wiggins-Thomas, whose two goals overturned Bulwell’s early lead.
Other former Yellows included striker Julian Topliss, midfielders Dean Gent and Lee McAnulty and defenders Grant Brindley and Dan Fletcher in a star-studded line-up.
But the manner in which The Bulls acquitted themselves delighted management trio Terry Witts, Steve Osborne and Ian Lowe.
“The lads did themselves and the club proud,” said Witts.
They dared to go ahead too when Jamie Walker rose majestically at the near post to head home a Ross McCaughey corner as early as the ninth minute.
Allan Jeffries missed a golden chance to double the lead when a one-on-one was foiled by ‘keeper Martin Kearney.
But on 25, Carlton levelled as Wiggins-Thomas netted at the second attempt -- and he almost struck again before the interval when Bulls’ man-of-the-match James Wheat pulled off one of several tremendous saves throughout the night, tipping his effort on to the bar.
In a more lively second half, the tie threatened to go either way. But Les McJannett’s Millers bagged their winner in the 72nd minute when the excellent Wiggins-Thomas turned Jay Knight and dispatched his shot with aplomb.
Bulwell responded by going gung-ho in search of an equaliser. But they also left themselves exposed at the back and suffered the final killer blow when they were reduced to ten men by the sending-off of goalscorer Walker.
The youngster was shown a straight red for upending a Carlton striker after a misunderstanding with Wheat in defending a long punt upfield.
Wheat did redeem himself by making a superb save from the resultant penalty, diving low to his left. But Carlton were unmoved and are now hot favourites to lift the trophy for the first time.