Relieved HUCKNALL TOWN pinched a point amid late drama and controversy in their first big Christmas local derby.
As a scrappy, stop-start game drew to a close, Town appeared to be heading for a 1-0 defeat at home to LINBY COLLIERY WELFARE in the Central Midlands League’s South Division.
But they not only snatched a freakish point-saver but also survived a last-minute scare when Linby throught they had grabbed a winner.
The equaliser was claimed by impressive new signing Courtney Bonnick, although he knew little about it!
Bonnick, who held the ball up well and showed good feet throughout his debut, charged down an innocent ball back to goalkeeper Rhys Watkinson, whose attempted clearance cannoned off the striker and looped back into the net.
Town almost struck again moments later with one of the few efforts on target all afternoon -- Eugene Francis cutting in from the left for a shot saved by Watkinson.
But they were most fortunate not to lose the game in the dying seconds when a loose ball flew into the net off midfielder Ash Winfield’s shoulder.
As referee Liam Jones initially gave the goal, Linby managers Dave Marlow and Jonathan Dakers bounced on to the pitch in wild delight. But Jones changed his mind when the linesman flagged for both handball and a foul.
The match, watched by a crowd of about 130, had also made a stormy opening, with some meaty tackles flying in.
Linby hunted down Town’s influential midfielder Leon Aikman, while Yellows boss Andy Graves said he was disappointed how the visitors “whined, moaned or threw themselves down as soon as one of our players breathed on them”.
The challenges prevented the game flowing with any real momentum and restricted the number of serious chances.
Town were denied by a terrific double save from Watkinson when Aikman’s shot was parried and then Montel Gatland’s follow-up from an acute angle flew off the ‘keeper’s foot.
But Linby, who fielded four 18-year-olds in their starting line-up, enjoyed most of the possession. Their back four looked increasingly comfortable, while the midfield trio of Winfield, Charlie Niblett and Adam Fox worked like trojans to deny Town space.
Up front, the visitors were without both main strikers, Matt Murphy and Kyle McDermott, but they took the lead from the spot in the 28th minute when Josh Henry was adjudged to have handled as he blocked a shot by Tom Coupe. Goalie James Beddingham got a hand to young defender Mason Frizelle’s penalty but couldn’t keep it out.
Linby expected a Town onslaught in the second half, but although Aikman drove over and teenage striker Adam Gilliott freshened things up from the substitutes’ bench, it never materialised.
Instead there was more huff and puff than quality from both sides, although the visitors wasted a golden chance to seal the points in the 70th minute. Young right-winger Ruban Mitchell wriggled free of Crisp and squared for Darrel Hargreaves, who just failed to reach the cross.