Defiant manager Andy Graves insists HUCKNALL TOWN will stick to their amateur status and not pay players, despite an alarming run of five defeats on the spin.
A 4-0 drubbing at title-chasing Bilborough Pelican last Saturday left cash-strapped Town in the bottom seven of the Central Midlands League’s CML) South Division.
And a catalogue of injuries and suspensions has left them badly in need of new blood, particularly up front.
But Graves said this week: “We set out this season with the firm intention of not paying any player.
“We know we need a goalscorer, and we have tried several options.
“But it’s not easy because those playing well and scoring in the lower leagues are in a position to win something with their clubs and those playing at a higher level have wanted money.
“We could have signed a striker a couple of weeks ago, but there was no way I could agree to the match fee and win and goal bonuses that would have been involved.
“It would be morally wrong to pay one player when there are others giving their all for the club for nothing -- no matter how much it would improve results.
“Even though we have lost three good players (Johnny Hamilton, Courtney Bartley and Sam Hawkins) who would have been happy to stay if we could have matched what they were offered by their new clubs, our stance on this will not change this season.
“We cannot undermine the fantastic amount of hard work the current committee, led by Liz Morley, has done to get the club into its most stable financial position for the last three seasons or more.”
Graves was desperately unlucky when one new striker he did bring to the club, Ashley Whitt, was injured within days of joining from Arnold Town.
Star midfielder Mark Smith is also sidelined with a long-term injury. Other players, such as Sam Sims, John Whetton, Jeremy Moran, Tristant Spencer, Eugene Francis and Joe Lomax, are trying to play through knocks. And the influential duo, Leon Aikman and Montell Gatland, are or have been suspended.
“Our entire first-choice midfield has been unavailable or restricted,” Graves continued.
“We have particularly missed Mark’s experience, creativity and surging runs.
“Not having a reserve side has made it difficult for those coming in because they are not match fit.
“This will be the first thing to address for next season. But I said at the start of this season, that we would have peaks and troughs.
“At the moment, there is no doubt we are in the latter. But it is during poor runs that you learn more about the players you have, especially mentally. The good runs sometimes disguise shortcomings.
“We will work hard through this sticky patch, move forward together and be stronger for it.”
Graves’s depleted side held their own for the first 40 minutes of the trip to Pelican, working hard.
Indeed they had their chances, most notably a Josh Henry header, while debutant Romeo Mugdadza looked dangerous.
Only a mix-up and a failed clearance gifted Pelican their opening goal before a second half that was all about Town’s walking wounded trying to get back into the game.
They were led by a brave performance from man-of-the-match Sims, who played through a groin strain.
And although Pelican did add three more goals, they all stemmed from The Yellows’ defensive shortcomings.
THE defeat came on the heels of another 4-0 reverse that dumped Town out of the CML’s Phoenix Trophies Floodlit Trophy on Wednesday last week.
Entertaining divisional rivals Mickleover Royals, whom they had lost 2-1 to in a league match four days earlier, they fielded several fringe players or youngsters.
These included 17-year-olds Jack Ford and Luke Atter and 18-year-olds Macauley Spencer, Mark Poyser and David Ezeigbo.
All went well for the first 20 minutes. Indeed Town should have been three up. But they collapsed in the style of the England cricket team in a poor ten-minute spell when they leaked all four goals, which included a harsh penalty.
TOWN’S next league game is this coming Saturday at home to next-to-bottom Blidorth Welfare, who have won just twice so far