Hucknall Town review of 2016: Title hopes alive again

Leon Aikman shoots against Selston back in April.
Leon Aikman shoots against Selston back in April.

Hucknall Town will no doubt see 2016 as a case of ‘so near yet so far’.

Having come close to winning the Central Midlands League title back in May, they’ve continued their good form into 2016/17 but remain on the heels of last season’s champions Selston once again in pursuit of a promotion spot.

There’s plenty of time left for them to achieve it, but here we look back at an action-packed 2016 and the key moments.

The year started badly as January opened up with four straight defeats for Andy Graves’ men, doing great harm to their promotion prospects, particularly with one of those losses being against the eventual champions.

The rot was stopped in style, however, with a 4-1 win over Belper United, although United would eventually be the team to deny the Yellows promotion by finishing second and themselves going up.

February was far more productive with two wins and a draw, Mickleover RBL and Keyworth United both dispatched 2-0.

March was even better as it began with a 5-1 thrashing of Holbrook St Michaels and, apart from a cup exit to Sherwood Colliery on penalties, it was a productive month as the Yellows drew with Blidworth and then beat local rivals Eastwood Community (3-0) and then Linby Colliery (4-1) to keep in touch with the leading pack.

The start of April was arguably where any remaining promotion hopes were seriously extinguished as it began with two costly defeats, first to town rivals Hucknall Rolls Leisure and then crucially to Selston.

Wins over Swanwick PR and Bulwell ended the month but Graves’ men were playing catch-up.

May would produce three wins to round off the campaign, the highlight being a 4-1 win at Eastwood Community, but with the sides above them not dropping enough points to be caught, it was a third place finish for Hucknall.

The summer months saw Graves aim to keep most of his squad together for another tilt at the title and he succeeded in doing so.

That was emphasised in style as August saw the Yellows open the campaign in emphatic fashion, a 7-0 win at home to Holbrook St Michaels followed by South Normanton being thrashed 6-0 a week later. A 3-0 win over Linby continued the good start.

September proved even better as Hucknall continued to look unstoppable. A 4-0 win over Teversal Reserves was followed with a 2-1 success at Southwell City, Blidworth Welfare hammered 7-1 at Watnall Road in the cup a few days later.

The highlight of the season so far, however, came with the battering of Eastwood Community 5-0 in the FA Vase second qualifying round.

October began well for Hucknall as Pinxton were beaten 4-0 but then Gedling MW ended the Yellows’ Notts Senior Cup hopes with a 2-0 win at Watnall Road.

Mickleover RBL were dispatched 5-0 in the league and then Southwell knocked Hucknall out of the League Cup, before champions Selston played out a 2-2 draw as two of the promotion contenders met for the first time.

The Yellows’ FA Vase dreams continued with a 4-3 win at Ashby Ivanhoe, before perhaps the biggest shock of the season so far saw the month out as Hucknall, previously unbeaten in the league, were beaten 2-1 by bottom of the table Holbrook St Michaels.

November quickly saw the Yellows hit the goal trail again as Blidworth were battered 6-0 and then higher division Rocester 5-1 in the FA Vase.

There was then more cup success as Linby Colliery were beaten 2-1 in the Challenge Cup.

The year was rounded off with a mixed December.

A big FA Vase clash at home to AFC Mansfield saw the visitors edge to a 2-1 victory, but the Yellows could be proud of their performance not only in that game but in the competition overall.

Two more league games ended the year and there were differing fortunes. First South Normanton, another of the promotion candidates, were beaten 3-2, but then leaders Selston once again proved a thorn in Hucknall’s side by winning 2-1 at Watnall Road just before Christmas.

As we enter 2017, Hucknall have only played 12 league games, seven fewer than current leaders Selston, and are 16 points behind.

With so much football left to play it could be argued Hucknall are still among the favourites to go up should they win their games in hand, and it looks sure to be another exciting year for the Yellows.