A comical own goal capped another night of painstaking frustration for relegation-haunted Hucknall Town on Tuesday night.
Taking on fellow strugglers Market Drayton Town at Watnall Road, bottom-of-the-table Hucknall played better than at any time in Darren Kelk’s short reign as manager.
And there were times when a tiny crowd of just 34 (a new record low) looked set to witness one of the five wins Kelk has targeted in Hucknall’s last nine games to have a chance of staying in Division One South of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
But instead, in a match hastily re-arranged after the original fixture last Saturday was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch, silly mistakes at the back cost The Yellows dear as they slumped to a 4-2 defeat.
And never more so than in the 64th minute when Town’s defensive madness scaled new heights.
There seemed to be little danger as Joe Storer tried a backpass to ‘keeper Michael Yates. But they were too close together and when Yates performed the classic air-shot, the ball rolled into an unguarded net for an own goal that somehow summed up Hucknall’s entire campaign.
The goal handed Drayton a 3-1 lead, which failed hopelessly to reflect what had happened before.
The Yellows had acquitted themselves really well and even led 1-0 at half-time.
The dominant force throughout the first period, they created several chances and would have had several goals but for some heroic ‘keeping by Dan Weston.
Instead they had to be satisfied with just the one as skipper Warren Hatfield looped a fine 20-yarder over Weston’s head in the 25th minute.
With more first-class stops and defensive blocks the order of the day, Hucknall seemed well set for only their fifth league victory of the season -- and their first since December 8.
Confidence was boosted further by the fact that they had already beaten Drayton twice, in league and cup, earlier in the term.
But schoolboy defending proceeded to turn the match on its head in the first 20 minutes of the second half.
First visiting skipper Martin Davies was given acres of room in the box to turn and fire past Yates.
Next the Hucknall backline failed to clear their lines, enabling striker Neville Thompson to prod home from close range.
And then came Storer’s own goal .
To their credit, Hucknall battled back to cut the deficit to 3-2 six minutes later as Danny O’Donnell beat Weston after two more smart saves.
But a bold decision to leave only three at the back in search of an equaliser seemed to backfire.
It gave Drayton carte blanche to run at the three exposed defenders -- and they didn’t waste the opportunity.
Six minutes from the end, a shot came in from the right and although Yates did well to palm it away, substitute Andy Cooke ran in, unmarked, to nod home the rebound.