MATTERS on the pitch made a welcome return to the spotlight as Hucknall Town got their promotion bandwagon back on track with an accomplished victory over Romulus, described by manager Des Lyttle as the “most complete of the season”.
The Yellows endured some patchy form towards the end of 2011, including five defeats on the spin.
But a crucial 2-0 success over Romulus, inspired by new signing Sebastian Lake-Gaskin, has them back in the hunt and just four points off a play-off spot.
Lyttle gave ex-West Bromwich Albion youngster Lake–Gaskin his debut on the left of midfield, Phil Massingham partnered Grant Ryan up front and returning centre-half Chris Timons and Craig Armstrong continued in the heart of the Yellows’ defence. Jared Holmes made a welcome return to the bench after his serious knee injury.
The much-maligned Watnall Road surface was never going to make for a classic match. But Town were the better side with their main outlet being the trickery and pace of Lake-Gaskin.
The best of the early chances fell to Ryan after a fumble from ‘keeper Chris Jay in the wind. But the Yellows man could only poke wide from five yards.
The same player then took advantage of a great touch from Massingham, but as he charged through he tried a dink over the ‘keeper, but could only hit the ball into the custodian’s chest.
The breakthrough deservedly arrived when Ryan fed man-of-the-match Lake-Gaskin, who again beat his marker for pace before delivering a dangerous cross that Corey Gregory poked home on the volley from ten yards.
Hucknall were dominant in the middle of the park, despite the strong wind and their work rate was exceptional.
The tough conditions and the below-par pitch continued to make it difficult for both sets of players in the second half, but it was The Yellows who gradually got on top once more.
Massingham shot wide on 51 after a good turn on the edge of the box and, with the visiting ‘keeper struggling to get any length with his kicks, Ryan superbly ran onto one only to see his shot well saved by Jay.
Town were in total command, but while they were only one up there was an obvious sense of nervousness among the small crowd of just 149.
Lake-Gaskin almost settled those nerves as his in-swinging corner beat everybody but substitute Matthew O’Bierne, who volleyed behind.
The hard-working Massingham was then replaced by Aaron Farrell and, just two minutes after coming on, he put the game to bed.
Ryan chested the ball down and fed Farrell, who timed his run to perfection as he raced clear and curled a delightful right-foot shot past Jay.
You could hear the huge sigh of relief from the Watnall Road faithful, who were also able to celebrate a clean sheet after James Lindley produced a fine, diving full-length save to turn away Nathan Walker’s 20-yard free-kick with just two minutes remaining after a foul by Timons.