Crucial Badgers return clash for Hucknall

Hucknall Town manager Andy Graves - Pic by James Williamson
Hucknall Town manager Andy Graves - Pic by James Williamson

Hucknall Town are preparing for a crucial return match at Eastwood Community on Saturday, knowing victory could close the gap on leaders Sherwood.

The Yellows beat title rivals Eastwood 2-1 on Saturday – ending a run of seven straight CML South wins for the Badgers.

A win for Eastwood would have pulled them level on points with Hucknall, but the gap is now six points between the sides before they meet again this Saturday and Hucknall are six points behind Sherwood with two games in hand – one of those being this weekend.

“It was a good win but it’s only half-time in the grand scheme of things with playing them again this Saturday,” smiled Hucknall manager Andy Graves.

“This Saturday’s game is even bigger as Sherwood haven’t got a game. So we can close the gap a little bit more.

“Then after that I think Sherwood play Eastwood so it’s all very interesting.

“There is a long way to go with a lot of ups and downs to come before the end of the season. It keeps everyone in the mix.”

He added: “The one thing I have noticed is that Sherwood and Eastwood have played a lot of their home league games.

“So they are going to have to go on their travels and not have home advantage, whereas that was only our seventh home league game.”

On Saturday’s win over the Badgers, Graves said: “I think we deserved it overall.

“There was a good crowd there, 230-odd, the Saturday before Christmas which was good as well.

“We changed a few things and they worked so we’re pleased with that too.

“To be fair we could have made it a lot more comfortable for ourselves than the scoreline suggests if Tevahn (Tyrell) and Joe (Ashurst) had put their chances away second half.

“That would have put the icing on the Christmas cake. Mike (Randall) did have to make a good save in the second half. But we did give Eastwood the goal that they got right on half-time.

“We were 2-0 up and looking quite comfortable. They were not really threatening us greatly.

“Then out of nowhere really a mix-up between goalkeeper and centre back gifted them a goal.”

Graves continued: “I expected Eastwood to come out second half and give it a really good go.

“But we weathered the initial first few minutes, then we countered quite well and had two very good chances we didn’t take.”

Hucknall’s win was achieved despite an illness sweeping through the club which Graves is hoping will be gone by Saturday.

“We did have a bug going round last week and I had to change things right before kick-off,” he said.

“My assistant (Phil Henry) had it too and missed the game.

“We are trying to keep everyone away from each other this week and hopefully everyone will be fit.

“We had one miss the game and two play with the bug.

“We will also have a couple back this weekend that weren’t available on Saturday.”

However, Graves expects to play an unchanged starting XI, saying: “Looking at it, we’ll probably go with what we had last weekend anyway.

“The lads did themselves justice and anyone who misses out after playing in that game would probably feel a bit disappointed.

“Obviously it’s a different surface this weekend and Eastwood will be wanting to get some sort of revenge, having been unbeaten in the league for a good while.

“They will be looking to try to turn things round, but equally we’ll be looking to push on again.”