A wonder strike by midfield lynchpin Leon Aikman settled a tight and tense local derby between HUCKNALL TOWN and LINBY COLLIERY WELFARE before a big crowd at Watnall Road.
Aikman scored the only goal of the game ten minutes into the second half, turning on the edge of the box and curling a spectacular shot into the top far corner.
It was a goal worthy of an attendance of 167 that was beaten in only six other matches up to step three on the non-league ladder last Saturday.
And it enabled The Yellows to exact revenge on Linby for a 4-0 thrashing they suffered at Church Lane back in August.
Delighted boss Andy Graves said: “I was getting on at Leon at half-time to pull the trigger because he didn’t on two occasions in the first half when he could have. But what a strike when he did!
“The win, another clean sheet and the size of the crowd were all positives and rewards for the players and the club.”
Graves also heaped praise on groundsman Colin Corbett and reserve-team boss Paul Stevenson for the “fantastic effort” they put in to ensure the pitch was playable after heavy rain. “At midday, a quarter of the pitch had pools of standing water,” he revealed.
Graves was particularly pleased with the win because six of his players were suffering from a stomach virus. “Four were vomiting before and during the gamne, so to keep going in such stamina-sapping conditions shows the superb spirit and resilience this group of players have and the pride they have in wearing the Town shirt.”
As for Linby, they felt they should have returned home with some reward from the game. “We deserved at least a draw -- there’s no doubt about that,” said spokesman Ady Ward. “It was a decent derby, but I felt that we shaded it. We just didn’t make our chances count.”
Both teams struggled, literally, to get a foothold on the heavy pitch in the first half.
For Town, Elliott Pitt bent a 25-yard free-kick inches wide, centre-back Dave Leak shot over in the box and Aaron Evans tested Luca Rocco with a fierce 25-yarder that the ‘keeper saved brilliantly.
For Linby, Kaylum Mitchell drove just wide from the best move of the half, and both Matt Murphy and Ruban Mitchell brought good stops from James Beddingham. Possibly the key to the match was an injury early in the second period to Linby midfielder Ash Winfield, who had kept Aikman quiet. Within minutes of Winfield’s departure, the Town man scored.
However, Linby still went agonisngly close to an equaliser, twice being foiled by the woodwork. First, right-back Mason Frizelle burst into the area for a shot that Beddingham fingertipped on to a post.
And then a powerful header by Matt Peberday was superbly parried by Beddingham, with Joe Butler’s instinctive follow-up effort also rebounding off an upright.
As the visitors poured men forward, other half-chances came and went. But Town also threatened on the break late on when Evans presented on a plate a simple-looking sidefoot-chance for Adam Nelson, who somehow fired wide.
TOWN LINE-UP (4-5-1) -- James Beddingham/ Josh Henry, Dave Leak, Joe Atkinson, Elliott Pitt/ Aaron Evans, James Rigg, Cameron Davidson, Leon Aikman, Ben Waplington/ Adam Nelson.
SUBS USED: Cayne Maxwell (for Waplington), Jeremy Moran (for Davidson).
TOWN STARMAN: Cameron Davidson.
LINBY LINE-UP (4-4-2) -- Luca Rocco/ Mason Frizelle, Terry Henshaw, Matt Peberday, Tom Coupe/ Ruban Mitchell, Aaron Ryan, Ash Winfield, Kaylum Mitchell/ Matt Murphy, Joe Butler.
SUBS: Adam Fox (for Winfield 50), Kyle McDermott (for Ryan 73), Callum Loydall (not used).
LINBY STARMAN: Matt Peberday..