HUCKNALL Town’s unbeaten run of seven games under new manager Des Lyttle was brought to a halt by fellow promotion-seekers Grantham Town at Watnall Road on Wednesday night (November 30).
Hucknall thought they had salvaged at least a point when midfielder Anthony Gregory equalised in the 75th minute.
But nine minutes from time, Jamie McGhee grabbed the winner for Grantham, who are now the new favourites to land the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South title.
The Gingerbreads came to Hucknall on the back of an extraordinary run of ten successive league victories since drawing with The Yellows at home back in September.
Managed by Jimmy Albans and Wayne Hallcro, their squad included four former Yellows in defender Grant Brindley, midfielder Martin Ball and strikers Tris Whitman and Ben Saunders.
Lyttle made three changes to his starting line-up, with young on-loan centre-back Liam Wakefield missing out because of illness and both Jermaine Hollis and Corey Gregory dropping to the substitutes’ bench. In came another on-loan defender, Nathan Stainfield, for his full debut, plus strikers Francis Green and Phil Massingham.
In front of one of the biggest crowds of the season at Watnall Road, Hucknall made a positive start, with Green seeing a left-foot shot turned over and Curtis Shaw curling an effort just too high.
But Grantham responded with a header from Rhys Lewis that produced a superb save by James Lindley, diving full-length to turn the ball away.
As the match settled down, it developed into a tight midfield battle of few chances. But out of nothing, Grantham snatched the lead in the 31st minute when McGhee dug out a wonderful left-foot cross from out on the left touchline and former Notts County and Sheffield United striker Tony Battersby flicked home a header.
The Yellows were almost gifted an equaliser when a rare error by big defender Brindley saw his back-header loop over his own ‘keeper, Rob Murray, who had to backpedal franctically to tip the ball away for a corner. And Hucknall also opened the second period brightly, with Shaw driving a right-foot effort just wide.
As the rain poured down and the wind swirled around the ground, Grantham began to look comfortable — only to be stunned by a Yellows leveller 15 minutes from the end. Defender Phil Watt brought down Grant Ryan just outside the box and up stepped Gregory, who nonchalantly bent the free-kick into the top corner with his left foot, leaving Murray motionless.
The Gingerbreads bounced back, though, and completed their 11th win on the spin when a long ball forward was won all too easily in the air by Battersby. His flick was latched on to by McGhee and although his initial first-time shot was parried by Lindley on the wet surface, he followed up to poke home the rebound.
Hucknall responded by sending on teenage sub Gregory, on loan from Sheffield United. But the closest they came to rescuing a draw was when Lindley went up for a corner deep into injury-time and managed to get his head to the ball. Sadly, the effort drifted wide.