Two goals by substitutes in injury-rime earned HUCKNALL TOWN a dramatic victory away to reigning champions Clifton All Whites to give their new Central Midlands League, South Division season a magnificent lift-off.
Town feared the worst after a 3-1 defeat on the opening day of the season last Saturday when a red card hampered their chances against Mickleover Royals.
But a team littered with new signings pulled out all the stops to beat Clifton 2-1 on Tuesday night for probably their best result since manager Andy Graves took over a year ago.
The home side were leading thanks to a goal on the hour by Connor Hardy, who capitalised on hesitant defending by Montell Gatland to drive a one-on-one past ‘keeper James Beddingham.
As the minutes ticked by, Town looked as if they would be denied as Nathan Robinson hit the bar.
But amazingly, they not only levelled, when Aaron Evans superbly volleyed home a cross, they also bagged a last-gasp winner when a corner by Jack Sanders was forced home by Toby Birch.
It was sensational stuff that sent Yellows fans, players and officials into raptures. But few could deny that Town deserved the win.
Experienced defender Dave Leak formed a formidable partnership with Darren Wright at the heart of their rearguard.
And for the second match running, another new boy, Dwayne Ngandi really caught the eye in midfield, especially with his direct runs.
Ngandi was Town’s star man in the opening game against Mickleover. But circumstances on and off the pitch conspired to deny Graves’s team the reward they warranted.
Sixteen-year-old goalkeeper Farren Packard had to be thrown into the action at the last minute when a replacement for Beddingham failed to turn up.
And talented new signing Elliott Pitt also had to withdraw two hours before kick-off because of a domestic family issue.
When the action did get under way, Town were in the throes of fighting back from 2-0 down when key man Cameron Davidson was harshly sent off for an over-zealous challenge.
Only moments earlier, substitute Adam Nelson had halved the deficit when latching on to a ball in the box and finishing first time.
But Mickleover, who finished just above Town last term, sealed the points in added time when Ryan Thompson reacted quickest to a header back to Packard.
More sloppy defending had allowed Nash Wilson to give the Derbyshire team a 31st minute lead, which was doubled on 64 by Sam Bartram.
Town not only created their share of the chances but also had three strong penalty-shouts rejected.