AN AMAZING burst of four goals in 14 minutes to launch the New Year made a mockery of Hucknall Town’s pre-Christmas toils.
Cynics and critics feared the worst for Town, who made the short journey up the road to meet their north Nottinghamshire rivals, Rainworth Miners Welfare, for a local derby.
But instead it rained goals at Rainworth for The Yellows, who halted a dismal sequence of five defeats on the bounce in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South.
The 4-0 victory also completed a hat-trick of triumphs this season over Rainworth, having also beaten The Wrens at home in the league and away in the FA Trophy.
And the doubters should not be fooled by the fact that Rainworth sit in the bottom four in the table. For they had improved dramatically under new manager Kevin Gee in recent weeks and even held high-riding title-chasers Carlton Town to a goalless draw on Boxing Day.
It was a curious match because there was little between the two teams for the first hour. Indeed Rainworth, whose side include four former Yellows in defenders Romaine Graham and Ricky Hanson, midfielder Stephen Akers and ex-FA Trophy and Unibond League championship hero Danny Bacon, had the better chances in a strong wind at Kirklington Road.
But then Town, who had failed to score in any of their previous three matches, suddenly exploded into life.
The spark that lit the flame was provided by man-of-the-match striker Grant Ryan, who scored twice within four minutes.
First, on 59, Ryan was sent racing clear when midfielder Anthony Gregory headed on a long clearance upfield from a Rainworth corner. The 20-year-old ex-Mansfield Town and Lincoln City frontman advanced on ‘keeper Ally Barcherini, making his home debut, and slipped the ball past him.
Before Rainworth had time to recover, Ryan was on target again, this time with a terrific shot from the edge of the box into the top corner.
The goals fired confidence through the veins of the Town side and although the home team went close to halving the deficit when Nathan Adams headed over from a flagkick, the points were wrapped up by two more Yellows goals, in the 70th and 73rd minutes.
A short free-kick was tapped to Anthony Gregory, whose left-foot shot found the top corner. And then on-loan Sheffield United youngster Corey Gregory completed the rout when turning his marker to volley into the roof of the net.
That goal marked a welcome return to form for Gregory, who was left on the substitutes’ bench by manager Des Lyttle to enable pacy ex-Notts County youngster Lewis Williamson to make his first full start for the club.
Corey Gregory’s older brother, Curtis, was also on the bench, along with promising youngsters from the club’s AFC Hucknall reserve-team, Sam Sims and Tom Crisp.
Centre-back Nathan Stainfield returned to the heart of the defence in place of the injured Aaron Mitchell, while goalkeeper Ben White played the final game of his loan spell from York City as James Lindley has now almost recovered from injury.
Led by another new skipper in midfielder Callum Lloyd, determined Town based their display on energy and hard work.
And in an opening half of few clearcut chances, they defended doggedly to keep Rainworth at bay, with Stainfield catching the eye.
The best opening came in the 26th minute when Akers won a corner, from which a header by Graham was cleared off the line and eventually scrambled clear.
Bacon also cleared the bar with a rising shot from edge of the area, while at the other end, Barcherini dealt comfortably with efforts from Anthony Gregory and Ryan.
The second period began with Rainworth embarking on a quick break down the right, which led to Ant Lynam turning Matt Glass’s cross just the wrong side of a post.
But it wasn’t long before Town transformed the game, much to the delight of their band of travelling fans in a disappointingly small crowd.