Hucknall Town’s Senior Cup exit is full of regrets

Leon Aikman is fouled
Leon Aikman is fouled

Key absences and missed chances combined to send HUCKNALL TOWN spinning out of the Notts FA Saturday Senior County Cup.

Town were banking on earning a place in the elite last 16 of the prestigious competition to add lustre to their on-field revival.

After all, the club did reach no fewer than 12 Senior Cup finals between 1985 and 2004, lifting the trophy six times.

However, missing new striker Ashley Whitt, goalkeeper James Beddingham and midfielder Mark Smith, they lost 2-1 at home to Southwell City.

And just as in the Central Midlands League (CML) encounter between the two sides the previous week, their failure to turn dominance into victory cost them dear.

Whitt, who has been signed on a dual signature from Arnodl Town, could be out for some time after injuring a knee while playing for his university side.

As a result, Town had to draft in untried youngster David Ezegibo, who has moved to this area from Hertfordshire to begin studies at Nottingham Univversity.

Ezegibo, who was signed after manager Andy Graves saw a YouTube video of him, is highly thought of and believed to be a target of Ilkeston.

But it was asking a lot of him to cure Town’s ills in front of goal that have become all too prevalent. And he duly squandered two golden chances early on when one-on-one with the ‘keeper.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Beddingham could not make the Senior Cup tie because he had to attend a workshop at Warwick University as part of his training to become a doctor.

And although his emergency replacement, Stephen Archer, tried his best, he was sadly at fault for the opening goal which handed Southwell a 15th minute lead completely against the run of play.

A free-kick 20 yards out, clumsily given away by centre-back Josh Henry, was knocked into the box for what should have been a routine gather by Archer. But instead the ball bounced off his chest and into the path of Tyrone Gray, who prodded home.

Town tried hard to force an equaliser, winning several corners without the scraps being seized upon. And they continued to probe away as the second half got under way.

However, for all their possession, they lacked a killer finish, and they gifted a second goal to counter-attacking Southwell.

This time, the normally reliable Leon Aikman was guilty of a loose, wayward pass that went out for a throw-in. This was knocked to the back post where Tariq Nadif was given too much time to turn by defenders Montell Gatland and Cameron Davidson and duly fired into the corner of the net.

Two minutes later, it was game on again as Aikman made amends by bursting through to halve the deficit.

And Town almost sent the tie into extra-time with chances for Eugene Francis, who saw a fine effort saved and then turned for a shot that flashed agonisngly wide. It wasn’t to be, though, and Southwell weren’t far away from adding another goal with a header that Archer did well to push wide.

As The Yellows now return to CML action at Belper United this coming Saturday, boss Andy Graves faces another search for a new striker.