IT’S no secret that the FA Cup is about as popular with Hucknall Town as Colonel Gaddafi is on the streets of Tripoli right now.
The competition has been an unmitigated jinx since The Yellows first entered back in the early 1990s. So all defeats these days are treated with an air of casual resignation.
But if you’re going to go out of the world’s most famous knockout tournament, then it’s best to do so with your heads held high.
And no-one at Causeway Lane, Matlock, could dispute that Hucknall Town did their best to spring a First Qualifying Round upset.
OK, the prize money would have been handy amid the club’s ongoing financial constraints. But few expected The Yellows to progress against a Matlock Town side expected to be challenging strongly for promotion to the Blue Square Bet North. Certainly not at this stage of their rebuilding programme.
So it was satisfying to see The Gladiators forced to rely on a breathtaking individual goal and a strike in the dying minutes for their victory and a place in the second of four qualifying rounds where they have been drawn at home to Hinckley United.
Hucknall attacked the tie with a game-plan to contain the home side. And with skipper Wayne Diuk marshalling his defence well against his former club, it worked a treat in the opening half.
Crack marksman Ian Holmes and ex-Yellow Tyeisse ‘TJ’ Nightingale were successfully shackled and the signs of frustration among the Matlock fans were already beginning to surface when the half-time whistle blew.
However Hucknall’s hopes were shattered by two major blows at the start of the second period.
First, the home side broke the deadlock with a wonder goal from nowhere by left-back Ben Algar, who collected the ball inside the Hucknall half, raced past several challenges and kept his composure to fire past ‘keeper James Lindley.
And then The Yellows squandered an excellent chance to get back on level terms when Aidan Brady delivered a terrific cross from the left and striker Grant Ryan thumped his point-blank header against the bar, with goalie Jon Kennedy beaten.
The hard-working Nathan Watson missed a similar chance as Hucknall continued to beaver away in search of an equaliser. But they just lacked that extra penetration and at the other end, it took two or three fine saves by Lindley to keep Matlock at bay.
Lindley foiled Gareth Davies, Kris Bowler and Holmes before he — and Hucknall — were finally beaten two minutes from the end. Moments after Micky Harcourt had crashed a 25-yarder against the bar, Diuk was robbed on the halfway-line by Davies, who fed Holmes to finish clinically from the edge of the box.