CONFIDENT Hucknall Town are hoping their promising start to the new season can rub off on their bid for an FA Cup upset on Saturday (September 17).
Two more fine results — a 3-2 win over Carlton Town and a 1-1 draw at Grantham Town — maintained The Yellows’ striking early form.
They have climbed to as high as eighth in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South table.
And now they have high hopes of springing a surprise when they travel to Premier Division outfit Matlock Town for their FA Cup, First Qualifying Round tie.
“The draw hasn’t been kind to us,” admitted manager Tommy Brookbanks this week.
“But although it’s a difficult tie, we have nothing to lose. Everyone will expect Matlock to win but there could be a shock in store, who knows?
“Matlock are a steady side and they will be a threat. But we have nice memories of the place, having won there with ten men last season.”
The match Brookbanks refers to was one of the highlights of Hucknall’s relegation campaign in 2010/11. Even though striker Gary Ricketts was sent off, they held on for a 2-1 win over The Gladiators at Causeway Lane last November — a result that lifted them, coincidentally, into eighth in the table.
The rest of the season is easily forgotten but The Yellows did also hold Matlock to a 2-2 draw in the return match at Watnall Road.
The Derbyshire outfit were in contention for a place in the promotion play-offs for much of the campaign before fading away to finish 11th.
At the end of the season, they lost their prolific top scorer Ross Hannah, who was snapped up by Football League club Bradford City.
But they quickly replaced him with crack marksman Ian Holmes from disbanded Glapwell and the former Mansfield Town man already has five goals to his name this term.
Holmes is likely to be partnered up front by one of two ex-Hucknall forwards in Tyeisse ‘TJ’ Nightingale, who was leading goalgetter at Watnall Road two seasons ago, or Lee Whittington.
Another ex-Yellow, former Chesterfield midfielder Steve Warne, is Matlock’s club captain. While their manager is Mark Atkins, who won a Premiership winners’ medal with Blackburn Rovers, under Kenny Dalglish and alongside Alan Shearer, in 1995 and was once the subject of a £1 million transfer to Wolves.
The Gladiators also currently sit eighth in the top flight, having won four and lost two of their eight matches.
Victory for Hucknall would earn them another significant windfall to ease their financial crisis.
They picked up £1,500 for knocking out Holbeach United in the last round and would collect a further £3,000 this time.
Another three qualifying rounds await — on October 1, October 15 and October 29 — for which the prize money is £4,500, £7,500 and a massive £12,500 respectively.
Few fans need reminding that in nearly 20 years of trying, Hucknall have never gone beyond the final qualifying round and played in the First Round proper.
Brookbanks has a strong squad to choose from for tomorrow’s tie. The only players missing are long-term casualty Dean Gent, who will miss the season as he waits for a cruciate-ligamernt operation, and strikers Nick Ghislanzoni and Kieren Watson.
Ghislanzoni will serve the second of a three-match suspension after being sent off against Rainworth Miners Welfare, while new signing Watson is cup-tied after playing in an earlier round for his previous club, Shirebrook Town.