A PLUCKY fightback was sabotaged by a costly sending-off that killed Hucknall Town’s hopes of upsetting promotion-pushing Sheffield.
In an entertaining game that belied atrocious weather at gale-swept Watnall Road, Town had just pulled the score back to 3-2.
And with the wind behind their backs, they were building up a head of steam that was threatening to boost their Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South play-offs bid.
But then, in the 62nd minute, winger Aidan Brady was guilty of a rash, two-footed lunge on Sheffield full-back Ben Turner right in front of the dugouts.
Referee Andrew Fox produced an instant red card and Town were left a massive uphill struggle that proved beyond them.
Yellows boss Des Lyttle was not convinced Brady deserved to be dismissed. “It was late and it was mistimed but I felt it could have gone either way,” he said.
However Lyttle was pleased with the way his side soldiered on after the red card.
“Sheffield kept the ball away from us well but we showed great fighting spirit,” he said. “A couple of months ago, we’d have gone on to lose 4-2 or 5-2.”
Lyttle also refused to attach all the blame for the defeat on Brady. Instead he was more concerned with the goals his side leaked earlier on.
“We gave ourselves a mountain to climb by conceding after only two minutes from a sloppy free-kick,” Lyttle said.
“The boys did really well to get back into the game because Sheffield are a decent side. They work hard for each other and are full of energy and enthusiasm.
“With the wind against us, I was happy to go in at half-time only 2-1 down. But then just four minutes into the second half, a lapse in concentration at the back allowed them to score a third.”
The fact that the slip-ups were made despite the presence at the heart of Town’s defence of ultra-experienced duo Chris Timons (37) and Craig Armstrong (36) added to Lyttle’s anger.
Timons made his latest debut for The Yellows, while Corey Gregory was recalled in two changes from the side that had thrashed Rainworth Miners Welfare the previous Saturday.
All the confidence gained from that win, however, was damaged in the first attack of the game as centre-back Jack Barnett’s sweet free-kick found the top corner of ‘keeper Jimmy Lindley’s net after Andy Gascoigne had been upended on a dribble through the home defence.
Town hit back strongly and a clever pass into the box by Brady found Anthony Gregory, who headed the equaliser.
But Sheffield were back in front on 19 thanks to an excellent, low strike by Andy Gascoigne after a neat through-ball from Martin Foster.
The Yellows continued to give as good as they got and terrific footwork by Grant Ryan teed up Brady, whose shot was cleared off the line.
After the break, Sheffield were expecting to come under a barrage of wind-assisted attacks. But instead they increased their lead when a ball through the middle by Gascoigne caught the backline on its heels, sending Nathan Modest clear to volley past a stranded Lindley from 25 yards.
Yes, Town responded again — this time when left-back James Price delivered a cross for top scorer Ryan to head home.
But just as the fans were settling down for a storming last half-hour, the red card took the sting out of the contest.
In an effort to rejuvenate his side, Lyttle sent on new striker Aaron Farrell (SEE BACK PAGE). But chances were scarce as Sheffield utilised their extra man to fine effect.