A LAST-minute winner by Lee McAnulty spared the blushes of Hucknall Town when they returned to action in the Notts FA Senior County Cup on Tuesday night (February 14).
After two weeks of bad weather and off-the-field controversy, Town were delighted to get back to business at Watnall Road against Gedling Miners Welfare in the Third Round.
However, it very nearly turned sour before 20-year-old midfielder McAnulty’s second strike of the tie earned a 3-2 victory to book a place in the quarter-finals.
Gedling play three levels below The Yellows and currently sit next to bottom of the East Midland Counties League, having leaked 69 goals in 23 games.
But in a spirited performance on a hard, bobbly pitch, they twice came from behind and were within a whisker forcing extra-time.
With manager Des Lyttle away, his assistant, Martin Prentice, selected an experimental side that included a midfield comprising new signings in McAnulty and Craig Reid, a recent signing in Seb Lake-Gaskin and reserve-team youngster Sam Sims. Another recent acquisition, ex-Tamworth and Kidderminster Harriers striker Aaron Farrell, partnered top scorer Grant Ryan up front.
Ryan teed up Town’s 17th minute opener as winger Lake-Gaskin unleashed a superb left-foot shot that curled into the top corner. And McAnulty, whose former clubs include Stafford Rangers and Nantwich Town, opened his account on 41, forcing home a cross to the far post by man-of-the-match left-back James Price.
However Gedling responded each time with equalisers from Kieran Wells — first on 23 when smashing home a penalty after Bradley Wells had been upended by Chris Timons and then on 64 when a cross-cum-shot sailed over stranded ‘keeper James Lindley.
Town were always the better side but looked set to pay for a host of missed chances when Farrell’s point-blank header hit the bar four minutes from the end and then Timons’s glancing header, from Craig Armstrong’s free-kick, was disallowed for offside.
Farrell also had two efforts cleared off the line before Town finally sealed the tie when McAnulty blasted home a rebound after Ryan’s shot had been saved.
IN OTHER ties played this week, Rainworth Miners Welfare won 3-2 at Basford United, while Retford United defeated Wollaton 2-1.