Late goals were both the saviour and the curse of HUCKNALL TOWN in their final two matches of the Central Midlands League, South Division season.
Town were grateful for a last-minute strike by Montel Gatland, which secured them an excellent 2-2 draw away to Allenton United last midweek.
But then they threw away leads of 2-0 and 3-2 before going down to an 87th minute winner in a 4-3 defeat at Swanwick Pentrich Road last Saturday.
The Yellows’ trip to Swanwick encapsulated everything about their 2013/14 season -- fast, exciting, quality football mixed with naievety and lack of experience at vital times. Surely if all their lapses can be ironed out, they can be a force to be reckoned with next term.
They appeared to have taken command when full-back Gatland, operating on the right side of midfield, struck twice in the opening half, including with a 20-yard scorcher into the top corner.
However, the match was transformed in five crazy minutes early in the second period.
First, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe missed a header from five yards, which would have put the game to bed. Next, Ben Waplington had a perfectly good-looking goal disallowed for offside. Then, penalty appeals were rejected when Leon Aikman’s shot seemed to hit the forearm of a Swanwick defender. And finally, a mix-up at the back between Josh Henry and 16-year-old stand-in goalkeeper Farren Packard gifted the home side a lifeline goal, scored by Ash Buxton.
It was soon 2-2 when big centre-back Richard Wall was left unmarked for a free header from a corner. And although Town restored their lead through Ogedi-Uzokwe, the game ended disastrously.
First, a free-kick from David Robinson went through everyone’s legs and ended up in the bottom corner. And then a bouncing ball in the box somehow went in off defender Alex Arnold for an own goal winner for Swanwick.
Town’s performance at Allenton, against a physical, no-nonsense side who have been riding high in the table for much of the season, reflected great credit on Andy Graves’s young side.
After a goalless first half, they took the lead with another goal from exciting Nigerian youngster Ogedi-Uzokwe.
So it was frustrating when a rare error by Henry, who misjudged a long kick and fluffed his clearing header, presented home striker Robert Iowrie with an equaliser -- one touch and bang.
Allenton then took the lead against the run of play when the ball was whipped in low on the greasy surface and flew in off the unfortunate Jack Ford.
But with Joe Lomax immense at the back, Gatland and Ben Waplington outstanding on the flanks and Ogedi-Uzokwe always dangerous, The Yellows continued to take the game to their Derby hosts.
And they got their reward when substitute Jeremy Moran played a lovely ball out to Waplington, whose superb cross was headed home by Gatland.