HOPES of a repeat run to the quarter-finals (or even further) of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Cup for Hucknall Town were dashed by a cruel, late goal on Tuesday night (September 27).
Despite their relegation travails last season, Town managed to reach the last eight of the Doodson Sport-sponsored competition where they bowed out away to Bradford Park Avenue.
But it was a case of falling at the first hurdle this week when they were beaten 3-2 by fellow Division One South outfit Loughborough Dynamo.
The winner came as late as the 85th minute when substitute Jake Dale-Brown struck a beauty from the edge of the box after good build-up play between Matt Langham and Will Grocott.
But even The Yellows camp admitted that Dynamo deserved their victory.
“They had a lot of possession and played some good football,” said assistant manager Gary Stones.
“You could get at them at the back but we didn’t keep the ball well enough, although I couldn’t fault our workrate and commitment.”
Dynamo are not regarded as one of the strongest outfits in the division. They finished sixth from bottom last term and currently sit 14th with three wins, three draws and three defeats from their nine league games.
Town boss Tommy Brookbanks named a reasonably strong line-up, although the likes of Wayne Diuk, Nathan Watson, Jared Holmes and Kieran Walker were left out to give chances to fringe players such as Matt Baxter, Joe Pheasant, Joel Goodacre and Carl Westcarr.
In a hectic start to the tie, Dynamo had a goal disallowed for a foul when Jake Betts headed home Jacob Blackwell’s cross. But The Yellows took the lead on 15 when left-back James Jepson released Grant Ryan who, despite a suspicion of offside, kept his calm to slide a shot past ‘keeper Sam Knot.
The match developed into a thrilling, end-to-end contest before the home side equalised seven minutes from the interval. A mazy run by Grocott took him past two defenders and when he pulled the ball back, there was Mitch Williams steadying himself before firing a low shot into the corner from just outside the area.
The goal was just the tonic Dynamo needed because within eight minutes of the start of the second period, they were ahead — from an unlikely source in full-back Carl Sibson. As Town failed to clear, the ball was played back into the danger-zone by Blackwell, leaving Sibson, who had stayed up from a previous attack, free to lob the advancing James Lindley.
In response, Joe Pheasant might have done better than hurry his shot wide after a surging run that took him past Betts. But after Dynamo had fluffed three golden chances, The Yellows battled back to level when Baxter whipped in a fine cross from the right and Matthieu Isamene poked home at the far post.
The tie was anybody’s now — and the tiny crowd were just beginning to contemplate the prospect of extra-time when Dynamo snatched their winner.