A solitary goal by new signing Ryan Bowen on his debut inched ten-man BULWELL to victory in the latest big local derby in the Cerntral Midlands League, South Division.
Relieved tabletoppers Bulwell held on to a 1-0 win over HUCKNALL TOWN in their first match since December -- despite having striker Conor Carter sent off on the hour.
But the frustrated Yellows felt hard done by after dominating for large periods and creating a stream of chances.
“Bulwell might have been a little rusty after a long lay-off, but we were arguably the better side,” said Town boss Andy Graves.
“One independent spectator wrote in his blog that if we had won 5-1 or 6-1, it would not have been a false scoreline.
“However, they were also correct to observe that it was finishing we lacked. If we can address that, we will be in a very strong position in the future.
“At least our performance showed that we are not far away from where we need to be next season.”
Bulwell also accepted that Town played their part in a competitive derby, with secretary Andy Radford admitting: “We were lucky not to concede a goal because The Yellows missed a host of chances.”
However, they also pointed out that their main objective was simply to get back to action after a six-week break caused by waterlogged pitches.
They were also keen to bed in their host of new signings, all acquired in a bid to boost their chances of lifting the title.
As well as matchwinner Bowen, Jamie Walker, Darren Garmston and Aaron Marks were all drafted into a strong squad missing only Ryan Perkins and influential Belgian Emmanuel Kashila-Kanyinda.
Town, who introduced new signing Elliott Jones at left-back, were without key players such as Mark Smith, skipper Cameron Davidson and centre-back Alex Arnold.
But just as they did when the teams last clashed in a 1-1 draw on Boxing Day, they were far from fazed about meeting the in-form top dogs.
Passing with confidence on a difficult, heavy Watnall Road pitch and in a cold, howling wind, they played their part in an entertaining game, with Leon Aikman invariably pulling the strings in midfield.
Both sides had goals disallowed in a goalless first period. Johnny Hamilton was denied for Town when he went round ‘keeper Jamie Wheat, only to be adjudged offside. And then a speculative Bulwell effort from Felix Hogg flew in off Walker, who was also flagged offside.
The second half was played in torrential rain. But although the surface became more and more stamina sapping, the action was no less absorbing.
Town went close to breaking the deadlock when recalled wideman Romeo Mugdadza struck a post. But instead, Bulwell conjured up the only goal of the game moments later.
As the home team failed to clear, richly talented youngster Walker, back at the club after a spell at Basford United, produced some excellent work down the left and laid the ball off for the impressive Bowen to coolly sidefoot into the roof of the net from 18 yards, off the underside of the bar.
Undeterred, Town continued to take the game to The Bulls -- and were helped by the red card for Carter, who was dismissed for persistent dissent as he voiced his anger at a decision to award a corner.
The visitors also had to replace Garmston, who is still feeling his way back after a serious knee-injury, and after their long break, they faced a mammoth task to hang on.
Tired legs inevitably hampered them. But they were aided by Town’s wasteful finishing.
Full-back Montel Gatland had a good chance saved by Wheat, Mugdadza blazed over and opportunities also fell to Eugene Francis, Courtney Bonnick and Aikman.
In the last ten minutes, The Yellows were virtually camped in the Bulwell half. But the leaders soaked up the pressure and returned home with three valuable points.
Next up for The Bulls this coming Saturday is an even stiffer away trip to third-placed Bilborough Pelican, while Town entertain second-placed South Normanton Athletic in a hastily re-arranged fixture.