New-look Hucknall Town scare title-chasers again

BED OF ROSES  -- Town goalkeeper James Beddingham, who kept  a clean sheet to take the man-of-the-match award
BED OF ROSES -- Town goalkeeper James Beddingham, who kept a clean sheet to take the man-of-the-match award

For the third successive match, gutsy HUCKNALL TOWN more than held their own against one of the top three title-chasers in the South Division of the Central Midlands League.

The positives were there for all to see as Town held second-placed Clifton All Whites to a goalless draw at Watnall Road last Saturday.

It halted a sparkling run of free-scoring form by Clifton and followed a draw against South Normanton Athletic and a narrow defeat at the hands of leaders Bulwell for Andy Graves’s Yellows.

What’s more, it was achieved despite a break from action of a month and despite a line-up ravaged by injuries and illness, which forced Graves to hand debuts to no fewer than four fresh signings.

Two of them -- teenagers Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe and Dwayne Yves Bessala -- have neen recommended to the manager by one of his contacts in the London area

Nigerian Ogedi-Uzokwe was on the books of Millwall and Leyton Orient before drifting into non-league football, while the 16-year-old Bessala has been with Stoke City and Stevenage Borough.

Local lad Ben Waplington was the third debutant, back with the club after playing under its former guise of AFC Hucknall, while James Rigg, a left-back formerly with South Normanton Athletic, was the fourth.

All did well, with two of them almost combining to set up a goal in the opening minutes as Waplington murdered his marker for pace before delivering a tantalising cross that Ogedi-Uzokwe just failed to reach.

It was also encouraging at the other end how capably Town dealt with Clifton’s formidable strike duo of Phil Massingham and Rob Gill, who were both playing against their former club.

In midfield, two crunching tackles on Leon Aikman underlined the respect the visitors had for him. And although Clifton forced no fewer than seven corners in the last 20 minutes of the opening half, The Yellows coped admirably, boosted by a goalkeeper, James Beddingham, in confident form.

Town had given themselves a solid base for the second half, which opened with Ogedi-Uzokwe turning to shoot wide after a move down the left.

Frustrated Clifton changed their approach, knocking familiar long balls down their channels, which posed some more questions for the home defence. But apart from a shot parried by Beddingham, they failed to hit the target, and their best chance was blazed wildly wide by Massingham.

Instead it was Town who came on strong in the last 20 minutes when substitute Cameron Davidson was introduced to add steel to the midfield alongside Bessala.

A spectacular overhead-shot by Ogedi-Uzokwe flew wide, Eugene Francis dribbled in from the right to curl an effort agonisingly off target and then Waplington also went close with a bender.

This Saturday, The Yellows take on another team in the top echelons of the table when they traverl to Pinxton