LOOSE defending and slack finishing combined to cost Hucknall Town dear as they slumped to a heavy defeat at FC United of Manchester on Saturday (January 22).
The Yellows held their own for chunks of the match in front of a bumper crowd of 1,883 at Coca-Cola League Two side Bury’s Gigg Lane ground and created their fair share of chances.
But The Red Rebels were more clinical and little bit tighter in defence and recorded a 4-1 win to bolster their own play-off aspirations in the Evo-Stik League, Premier Division, while simultaneously denting Town’s hopes.
Yellows boss Tommy Brookbanks stuck with the same 11 that had beaten Worksop Town 2-0 in the Evo-Stik League Cup four days earlier.
But his young, inexperienced defence, led by stand-in captain Martin Ball, was caught in the headlights early on and conceded after just five minutes.
FC United frontman Jerome Wright got in behind the Town defence and his cross was tapped in by strike partner Mike Norton.
To their credit, Town’s backline didn’t fold and The Yellows set about getting back into the game.
Ball headed over a cross from winger Callum Lloyd and centre-back Joe Pheasant levelled the score on 25 minutes when he nodded home Dean Gent’s corner.
But the good work was undone 12 minutes later when left-back Sam Clare lost an aerial challenge and, while he lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, the ball dropped to Wright, who fired past ‘keeper Ross Whalin.
Town started the second half brightly and thought they had equalised again when Pheasant flicked home Lloyd’s centre. But the defender was flagged offside.
On the hour mark, the sizeable home crowd upped the decibel level and their players subsequently increased the tempo on the field as three efforts were thwarted in quick succession.
Up the other end, substitute Anthony Griffith Junior flashed a free-kick just wide.
Then, FC United put the game beyond doubt with two goals in the final 12 minutes.
First, former Oldham Athletic striker Matty Wolfenden lost Dion Chambers in the box and calmly slotted past Whalin.
The final nail was drilled into the Town coffin on 88 as Jake Cottrell’s 25-yard, left-footed curler beat an unsighted Whalin.
TOWN LINE-UP (4-4-2) - Whalin/ Boafo, Ball, Pheasant, Clare/ Smith, Gent, Chambers, Lloyd/ Nightingale, Gill. SUBS: Chaplin (for Nightingale 45), Brindley (for Clare 63), Griffith Junior (for Gill 70), Holmes (not used), Burge (not used).