‘Promotion race will go distance’

Hucknall Town manager Andy Graves - Pic by James Williamson
Hucknall Town manager Andy Graves - Pic by James Williamson

Hucknall Town boss Andy Graves believes the Central Midlands Football League Division South promotion race will go right down to the wire.

The Yellows face Eastwood on Saturday in the first of three local derbies in seven days, with Linby Colliery on Bank Holiday Monday and Hucknall Rolls Leisure on April 2.

It follows a Floodlit Cup area semi-final penalty shoot-out exit on Wednesday night to league rivals Sherwood Colliery, who face second-placed Belper United this weekend.

Graves’ Hucknall, in third, are just a point behind Belper, who lost to leaders Selston last Saturday, and face Craig Weston’s men again before the season reaches a conclusion.

Selston didn’t apply for promotion at the start of the season, meaning they won’t be considered for making the step up even if they lift this season’s league championship.

Graves said: “I think it’ll go right down to the wire. Selston are in a good position. We’ve got to play them and teams around us have got to play each other. I think it’ll go to the end.

“Our main aim is to get promotion. We’ll win what we can and we’ll see where that takes us. It’s just disappointing that period in January when we had so many players missing.

“We couldn’t get a win then when everyone comes back we get back to winning ways, beating top of the league at the time Belper 4-1. That just shows where the problem was.”

On the fixtures, he added: “Fixtures seem to favour other teams, our fixtures get changed all the time. I plan for one thing, tell the players then the fixtures get changed.

“That seems to be the way in this league. It’s frustrating. We’ve got to go up to Swanwick for a midweek 6.30pm kick off. Playing a team without floodlights midweek, I don’t think the league should allow it.

“That time of the day we’re going to be struggling to get two full 45 minutes in.”

Graves was disappointed but not too downhearted after his side’s cup exit to Sherwood Colliery, who Hucknall travel to on the last day of the season (May 7).

“We had a few players missing,” said Graves. “I thought we did alright, both sides cancelled each other out. We probably had slightly the better chances in the main game but we weren’t good enough.

“We rushed through them and didn’t take our chances. They had a couple towards the end of extra time where the stand in keeper made some good saves. The penalties were a lottery. I’m not overly disappointed.

“The bigger game is when we go to their ground in the league and that’s more important to us. The league has always been our main focus. Almost every cup competition we’ve been involved with has gone to extra time.

“The last round went to extra time and penalties, which we won, but we lost in extra time of the League Cup to Rolls (Hucknall Rolls Leisure) and the same with Linby in the Notts Senior Cup. We must just like to go to extra time.”

He added: “I know we weren’t at full strength last night (Wednesday). Having seen what I had from that, I’m pretty confident for when we play them again.”