AN 85th-minute goal condemned battling Hucknall Town to defeat against Evo-Stik League, Premier Division champions-elect FC Halifax Town last Saturday (March 19).
The determined Yellows had fought back from a goal down to level through Fabian Smith in the 66th minute against the runaway, free-scoring league leaders.
But striker Lee Gregory popped up with a header to send The Yellows tumbling 2-1 and brought up Hucknall’s tenth league defeat since the turn of the year.
The loss left Tommy Brookbanks’ side third from bottom of the table and four points from safety ahead of a must-win trip to basement boys Retford United on Tuesday (March 22).
The Yellows’ wretched run in 2011 has seen them pick up just two points from a possible 36 and plummet from the coat-tails of the play-offs into the drop-zone.
But, if they can show the fight and skill they showed against Halifax — who handed The Yellows a 4-0 drubbing back in September — they might still be able to stave off relegation.
Brookbanks was brave and plumped for an attacking 4-4-2 formation against a Halifax side who had plundered 82 goals going into the game.
He gave a debut to new striker Grant Ryan, brought Dion Chambers into midfield and dropped Grant Brindley, whose clanger gifted Whitby Town victory at Watnall Road four days earlier, to the substitutes’ bench. Former Yellow Danny Holland started for Halifax.
Callum Lloyd should have given The Yellows the lead on ten minutes but he shot wide when one-on-one with ‘keeper Jonathan Edge.
Four minutes later Halifax scored when Gregory headed home a Tom Baker free-kick.
A few Halifax half-chances followed, before Chambers stung Edge’s fingertips with a 25-yard volley.
Halifax had a golden chance to make it 2-0 soon after when home skipper Wayne Diuk hauled back Gregory in the area. However Baker, who netted a spotkick when the sides met at the Shay earlier in the season saw his kick brilliantly palmed away by ‘keeper Ross Whalin.
The visitors continued to be on the front foot after the break, with Scott Hogan twice going close.
But The Yellows still forged their own chances, as Tyeisse ‘TJ’ Nightingale saw a goalbound shot deflected for a corner.
And they got the reward their hard work deserved on 66 when Fabian Smith latched onto a throughball from Anthony Griffith Junior to clip the ball over the onrushing Edge.
With just ten minutes left, Nightingale had a great chance to give his side the lead. Teed up by Josh Burge, the striker got the ball stuck under his feet when well-placed and the chance was gone.
Heartbreak came on 85 when Jamie vardy crossed and Gregory headed back across goal past a despairing Whalin.
HUCKNALL LINE-UP (4-4-2): Whalin/ Boafo, Diuk, Ball, Jepson/ Smith, Chambers, Burge, Lloyd/ Nightingale, Ryan. SUBS: Griffith Junior (for Lloyd 63), Holmes (for Chambers 83, Brindley (for Smith 90), Gill (not used), Whitman (not used). CROWD - 527.