Infuriating Hucknall Town so close but so far

THE GREAT GATLAND -- full-back Montel Gatland (left), who was one of several teenagers in Town's team and went close to scoring against Mickleover.
THE GREAT GATLAND -- full-back Montel Gatland (left), who was one of several teenagers in Town's team and went close to scoring against Mickleover.

Frustrating HUCKNALL TOWN’S infuriating habit of suffering narrow defeats continued with a couple of 3-2 reverses in the space of four days.

Town look certain now to finish in the bottom six of the Central Midlands League’s South Division after picking up just six wins in their 29 outings.

But a goal-difference of just minus-seven tells its own story of a team not far off a much better return.

And the matches at Mickleover Royals on Wednesday night last week and at Real United last Saturday underlined how setbacks could easily have been turned into triumphs.

On both occasions, they gave themselves mountains to climb, going two down in the first ten minutes against Mickleover and then falling three down before half-time at Real. But they fought back well in contests that were actually too close to call.

At the Raygar Stadium, the home team pinched a fourth minute lead when Josh Henry gave away a needless corner, from which striker Piers Thompson nodded home.

And seven minutes later, Tom Allen looked suspiciously offside when doubling Mickleover’s advantage.

Considering they were fielding a very young side, including 16-year-old goalkeeping debutant Farren Packard, one other 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, Town might have been expected to capitulate.

But they rallied gamely, with exciting new signing Junior Ogedi-Uzoikwe posing big problems with his pace.

Ben Waplington, Leon Aikman, Eugene Francis, Cameron Davidson and Ogedi-Uzokwe all went close before The Yellows opened the second period with goals to bring themselves level.

Substitute Joe Lomax celebrated his return to the fold by netting the first -- to make up for missing a sitter -- and then Ogedi-Uzokwe levelled from a curling corner by Waplington.

Town might even have bagged the winner as a 35-yarder from full-back Montel Gatland rattled the bar and Aikman finished a mazy run with a shot that he just lifted over the top.

So it was agonising to see Mickleover steal that winning goal instead -- especially as it came two minutes into injury-time. Defender Adam Whitemore chose to dive in, rather than stand his ground, making it easy for a cross that was flicked home by Thompson.

Town’s trip to The Inspire Stadium was organised almost as hastily as Real were out of the blocks. Slips by James Rigg and Whitemore were punished by quality strikes from Tyrell Shannon-Lewis and Jordan Blair.

And when a 30-yard shot from Kieron Whalin also whizzed past ‘keeper James Beddingham, The Yellows were on their knees.

It was a harsh example of how crucial it is to finish your chances because in every other facet of the game, Town more than matched their hosts.

Manager Andy Graves made his feelings known at the interval -- and his short, sharp blast had the desired effect because his side restored their pride.

The second half was all Town and a penalty from Francis, followed by a curled effort from Lomax, almost earned them a deserved point.