The scalp of unbeaten leaders Mickleover Royals was sweet enough. But it’s a fair bet that the heads of local-derby rivals HUCKNALL TOWN, claimed last Saturday, meant so much more to revitalised BULWELL.
Seven days earlier, The Bulls had given surefire comfirmation of their remarkable resurgence under new manager George Hulley when becoming the first team to defeat Mickleover.
But such a momentous victory would have lost a bit of its lustre if they had been unable to follow it up against Town.
As it was, a solitary goal in the 30th minute by Jay Knight, against his former club, earned them a precious 1-0 victory. One that lifted them into second spot in the Central Midlands League, South Division table, just three points behind Mickleover. And one that made it four wins on the spin and seven wins from nine matches under Hulley’s wily leadership.
In fact, The Bulls have not lost a league match since way back on 25th October when they were licked 4-0 on their own patch -- by Hucknall Town.
Revenge was spot-on for the Bulwell following in a crowd of around 150 that braved icy-cold weather to witness a collision between two sides in a rich vein of form.
Sadly, the contest was far from a classic, with Town so disappointing that manager Andy Graves reckoned his team functioned at only 50% of their true ability.
“I thought it was a poor game,” said Graves. “I felt we were flat throughut. We probably looked the more threatening in open play, but the quality in the last third was woeful.
“We looked tired, mentally, not physically, and I think that was a knock-on effect from the previous week’s game at Pinxton when we played so well but got nothing.
“It’s a shame that a game which should have been so entertaining never got the crowd going.”
Bulwell weren’t complaining, however. They felt it was “a typical local derby between two sides who weren’t going to give anything less than 100%”, and secretary Andy Radford commented: “We fully deserved our victory with a dominant display that had Hucknall frustrated for 90% of the match.”
Town began like a house on fire, with Ben Waplington looking lively on the left. But a rock-solid Bulwell defence, in which Knight and Adam Whitehead were outstanding, soaked up all the pressure. Leon Aikman was always a threat for the home side in the middle of the park. But giving him as little time on the ball as possible nullified his influence and as the game wore on, Bulls brothers Ashley and Daniel Chadwick began to boss proceedings.
Chances were at a premium, though, and it’s indicative of the shortage of entertainment that the only serious shot on target of the first half was Knight’s goal.
Thank goodness then that the goal was well worth waiting for as the centre-back hammered a superb volley into the top corner from a Daniel Chadwick corner. Knight, and Whitehead, also received a yellow card, leaving them walking a tightrope in the second period.
And Town should have levelled just after the hour mark when striker Aaron Evans went clear for a one-on-one that Bulwell ‘keeper Matt Simpson was equal to, spreading himself to save with his legs.
However, from then on, the visitors had few problems in holding on to their points. The sole scare came late on when substitute Adam Nelson skipped past Tobias Richardson for a shot across goal that had Simpson beaten but rolled wide.
At the other end, The Bulls created only half-chances. But as well as the win, they received a bonus in the shape of their latest foreign signing, Jorge De Pina.
Portuguese midfielder De Pina, who has played semi-professionally in his homeland, was sent on as a 64th minute substitute to break up play whenever possible in midfield. And judging by the 22-year-old’s composure and ability to pick out a pass, Bulwell seem to have unearthed a gem.
HUCKNALL TOWN LINE-UP (4-5-1) -- Michael Samuels/ Josh Henry, Dave Leak, Joe Atkinson, Elliott Pitt/ Cayne Maxwell, James Rigg, Cameron Davidson, Leon Aikman, Ben Waplington/ Aaron Evans.
SUBS: Montell Gatland (for Maxwell 73), Adam Nelson (for Rigg 80), Josh Rafferty, Jeremy Moran.
TOWN STARMAN: Dave Leak.
BULWELL LINE-UP (4-4-1-1) -- Matt Simpson/ Carlo Rocco, Adam Whitehead, Jay Knight, Tobias Richardson/ Liam Towle, Daniel Chadwick, Ashley Chadwick, Leon Roberts/ Tommy Kemp/ Jake Fisher.
SUBS: Jorge De Pina (for Roberts 64), Lewis Wheelhouse (for Chadwick D. 68), Marek Vipond (for Kemp 80), Richard Saunders, Luke Attenborough.
BULLS STARMAN: Ashley Chadwick.