A hat-trick by striker Joe Butler fired title-chasing Hucknall Town to a convincing 4-0 win over Kimberley Miners Welfare.
Butler even cured Hucknall’s Achilles heel of missing penalties this season, with two of his goals coming from the spot.
The win, in front of a crowd of 166 at Watnall Road, kept the Yellows fifth in the East Midlands Counties League, Premier Division table, five points behind leaders Eastwood Community with a game in hand.
The teams in between, Sherwood Colliery, Heanor Town and Dunkirk, all have at least one match in hand on Andy Graves’s side, however, so there is little room for manoeuvre in the race for the title.
This Saturday, they take on the team directly beneath them, Gedling Miners Welfare, who knocked them out of the Notts FA Senior Cup last month.
Hucknall were on top of struggling Kimberley from the off, with a bright start rewarded as early as the second minute when Adam Nelson shot home from close range.
The visitors, who have yet to win away from home this term, responded well and forced ‘keeper Adam Jablonski into two smart saves.
But Hucknall doubled their lead just before half-time when a rash tackle by centre-half Jahren Barrow was punished by Butler’s confident spot-kick.
In the second half, Kimberley had their moments again, and although the hosts defended well, their fans felt a third goal was needed to wrap up the points.
That goal duly arrived with the awarding of a second penalty when the ball bounced up awkwardly and struck skipper Sam Parker on the arm. It was the correct decision, but to also give Parker a red card seemed extremely harsh. Salt was duly rubbed into Kimberley’s wounds when Butler drove home, despite a fine effort from ‘keeper Jake Wood.
Man-of-the-match Butler completed his treble in the dying minutes when he nipped between ‘keeper and defender to head home a long punt forward.
LINE-UP – HUCKNALL: Jablonski/ Maxwell, Brown, Phillips, Short, Sims, Crawford, Banister, Brian, Nelson, Butler. Subs: Jenkins, Pearson, Hubbard.
KIMBERLEY: Wood/ Buckley, Parker, Gibbons, Barrow, Chambers, Hopkins, Whitton, Smith, Pakrouz, Barr-Rostron. Subs: Charlton, Younis, Welsh, Mabonga, Upton.