NEW manager Darren Kelk admits it was a case of “men against boys” when Hucknall Town suffered their latest defeat at the foot of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South last Saturday.
Hucknall were thumped 3-0 by old rivals Carlton Town at Watnall Road for their 20th defeat of the campaign.
And there were no excuses from Kelk, who admitted the performance of his young side was as disappointing as the result.
With Tuesday night’s scheduled match at home to Leek Town postponed because of a snowbound pitch, he will now be looking for “a massive improvement” when his troops entertain Sheffield tomorrow (Saturday).
Kelk is hoping to have at least two new signings on parade, including centre-back Joe Butler, who has been playing as a professional in Iceland.
The need for international clearance might delay Butler’s debut by a week. But Kelk is hoping to finalise the signature of ex-Arnold Town left-winger Danny O’Donnell in time for tomorrow.
“Carlton are a goood side,” said Kelk. “They have the pedigree and the experience.
“But some of my boys didn’t turn up, which is disappointing because from what I had seen of them, I had been encouraged.
“However, that is the trouble with young boys because they are still learning the game.
“After the match, I sat down with my assistant, Bob Limb, and coach Tony Cox, and tried to analyse what had happened. But the simple fact is that if you give the ball away when you have good possession, and often under no pressure, then you are going to get punished.
“We have two young centre-backs, Billy Simpson and Jason Gregory, who are going to be very good players.
“But Carlton had Ian brown, who is a really experienced lad at this level.”
Brown it was who netted two of Carlton’s goals, both headers, in the 26th and 51st minutes.
And in the absence of Warren ‘Wiz’ Hatfield, who was unavailable, Hucknall were often run ragged by Brown and his strike partner, Julian Topliss.
Indeed Topliss, who spent most of the campaign before Christmas at Watnall Road, marked his display with a wonder goal against his former club.
It was a fantastic finish, six minutes before the break, that had the small 114 crowd comparing it to Paul Gascoigne at his best.
To their credit, Hucknall’s workrate was never worse than exemplary. And they had three good chances of their own in the opening half when visiting goalkeeper Martin Kearney pulled off two fine saves and full-back Daniel Fletcher produced a supeb headed block.
Fletcher was one of a handful of other Carlton players returning to their former stomping ground.
The rest included Dean Gent and Reuben Wiggins-Thomas, although Lee McAnulty was out injured and Martin Ball was missing after leaving the club to join Worksop Town.
Hucknall’s squad boasted two new signings who have travelled in the opposite direction, from Carlton -- Liam Marsden and Jordan Vilums.
The substitutes’ bench included experienced former Rainworth Miners Welfare player Dennis Sims, who is back at Watnall Road for a second spell, and defender Josh Stalworthy, who has been recommended by ex-Yellows boss John Ramshaw.