Lyttle blasts FA Trophy leaks at Leek

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NEW manager Des Lyttle criticised his team’s defending as Hucknall Town crashed out of an FA Trophy competition they once graced with pride.

Hucknall gave themselves no chance at Leek Town when falling three goals behind in the opening 28 minutes of their First Round tie.

And Lyttle pulled no punches after the 4-1 defeat against opponents who sit below them in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South table.

“I was very disappointed,” said the former Nottingham Forest defender. “The three goals we conceded in the first half were unacceptable. It was a question of basic defending.

“The players need to realise that everything starts with a clean sheet. They need to understand what their role is on a football field.

“I can talk tactics and formations all day. But we didn’t do the basics at Leek. It was not good enough.”

The defeat extended Hucknall’s poor record in the Trophy since they reached the final in 2005. And it also cost the new regime at Watnall Road £2,200 worth of prize money — not to mention a good-looking Second Round tie at home to Witton Albion.

But there’s no doubt that Leek deserved their victory after a first-half display described by their manager, Neil Baker, as being “as good as anything we’ve seen this season”.

In fairness to The Yellows, they were handicapped by the decisions of Nathan Watson and James Jepson to quit the club on the eve of the tie.

They forced Lyttle to play reserve-team debutant James Price at left-back and to switch from his favoured 4-5-1 formation to 4-4-2, with Phil Massingham returning to partner Grant Ryan up front.

After an even start, his side were chasing the game from the 18th minute when Ricky Bridge curled a lovely, low cross round the back of defenders for Jimmy McCarthy to run on to and bury past James Lindley.

Two minutes later, it was 2-0 as McCarthy fed Matt Haddrell, who blasted home at the far post.

And the damage was completed just before the half-hour when a break left Hucknall badly short-handed at the back and the ever-dangerous McCarthy won a high ball in the centre circle to bear down on goal before rounding Lindley.

The Yellows responded with a cross from the right that bounced off the woodwork. And in the 37th minute, they ought to have given themselves a lifeline when awarded a dubious penalty for a foul on Massingham. However Grant Ryan’s kick was smothered by ‘keeper Danny Roberts.

To be fair to Hucknall, they refused to buckle in an open, end-to-end second half and created as many chances as Leek.

Massingham headed over from close range and Matt Baxter shot wide from 20 yards before their efforts were rewarded with a goal in the 69th minute.

Ryan was the scorer, making amends for his penalty-miss when holding off the challenges of two defenders on a run to goal and sliding a shot past the advancing Roberts.

However the goal proved nothing more than a warning signal to Leek, who never looked like surrendering the tie.

They pressed forward again and wrapped up their Second Round ticket with a fourth goal two minutes from time. Lively substitute Tim Grice was the instigator, seeing two fierce drives blocked before Haddrell stepped in to lash home the loose ball from eight yards.