Hucknall Town give title-chasers a scare for second week running

KING LEON -- man-of-the-match Leon Aikman (yellow), who scored one of Town's goals.
KING LEON -- man-of-the-match Leon Aikman (yellow), who scored one of Town's goals.

Claims that HUCKNALL TOWN are well on their way to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Central Midlands League can no longer be taken with a pinch of salt.

For after giving tabletopping BULWELL a fright the previous week before going down 1-0, Town rocked another of the title-chasers at Watnall Road.

This time, second-placed South Normanton Athletic were on the receiving end of a confident and exciting perfomance by The Yellows, offering lots of promise for the future.

And a 2-2 draw could easily have been a 2-1 win, but for a Normanton equaliser just eight minutes from the end.

“We are really beginning to realise the potential we have,” said Yellows boss Andy Graves.

“Apart from the opening five-minute spell, when both teams probed to gain an advantage, we dominated the first half and should have gone in three up.

“Normanton’s manager was seeing his side systematically pulled apart and was heard to warn several of his players that they had ten minutes to buck up or be subbed.

“They did continually bleat about the state of the pitch, but in fact, our groundsman had worked wonders during the week to repair it after it had been badly affected by the Bulwell game.

“The pitch was actually better than it had been for a while -- and one of our supporters shouted back to Normanton that it was a good job it wasn’t perfect because we would have made them look even less like title challengers!

“With players already committing to the club for next season, it’s all looking very promising.”

That first-half display by Town saw Leon Aikman bossing the midfield, ably supported by John Whetton, who is relishing his new role alongside him.

Aikman went close to opening the scoring with a ferocious shot that cannoned off the net support pole. And with the pace of Johnny Hamilton down the right also posing many problems, further chances fell to Romeo Mugdadza and Eugene Francis.

The only frustration for Town was that, as so often this term, they failed to turn their superiority into goals.

And that frustration intensified four minutes into the second half when the visitors stole an unlikely lead. A shot from distance appeared to be drifting harmlessly, but when Mugdadza stuck out a leg, the ball diverted off him into the path of Shane Newton, who netted his 15th goal in 18 appearances for The Shiners.

However, Town refused to allow the goal to knock them off their path and, inspired by the surging runs of Aikman and Hamilton, they soon forced Normanton to defend deep again.

The equaliser came when Hamilton hounded a defender, who duly handled for a penalty that Francis tucked away.

And Town took a deserved lead when the classy Aikman drove a vicious right-foot shot into the bottom corner.

Normanton responded by throwing on their last two substitutes. But Town remained in the ascendancy, with Hamilton, Francis and Whetton all going close, so it was agonising to see the Derbyshire side snatch a draw.

The goal was a scrappy effort too as the ball bounced around in the box after a corner before sub Robert Fretwell lashed it home.

At least the performance earned Graves’s Yellows a deserved break this weekend before they return to action at Derbyshire outfit Swanwick Pentrich Road on Saturday 8th March.