Dream opener sparks delight for Hucknall Town

WAT A START -- Nathan Watson, who scored the only goal of the game and gave Hucknall Town all three points on the opening day of the season at Romulus -- DISPIC NHUD11-1759-8.
WAT A START -- Nathan Watson, who scored the only goal of the game and gave Hucknall Town all three points on the opening day of the season at Romulus -- DISPIC NHUD11-1759-8.

THE DREAM the night before for Hucknall Town officials on the eve of the new football season would surely have been for a victory, three points and a clean sheet.

Well, guess what? That dream turned into reality for The Yellows on Saturday August 13 as they kicked off the new campaign in Division One South of the Evo-Stik League with an eyecatching 1-0 win over Romulus, who are based in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham.

Town have suffered the most arduous of close seasons after their relegation from the Blue Square North last term.

For they have been enveloped in a financial crisis that surrounds a VAT debt of £84,000 owed to the taxman.

The crisis threatened the very existence of the club.

Now they have been forced to adopt amateur status, which means they cannot pay wages to their playing or coaching staff.

But the bank balance was put to the back of the mind as Town made a promising start to their new life against a side picked by many as one of the contenders for the promotion play-offs.

The crucial, match-winning moment arrived on 32 minutes at the Central Ground when new signing Nathan Watson, who was formerly on the books of Leeds United, produced a mazy run and induced a foul on the edge of the box.

The home side were made to pay the ultimate penalty when 21-year-old Watson got up, dusted himself down and floated the ball into the centre of the goal and into the back of the net with Romulus ‘keeper Wren seemingly unsighted and rooted to the spot.

With manager Tommy Brookbanks in the stands serving the first instalment of a three-match suspension, Town, who played a 4-4-2 with the attacking focal-point of Grant Ryan and experienced former Long Eaton United man Nick Ghislanzoni, started the game much the brighter of the two sides.

They fashioned the first real chance on seven minutes when Ryan screwed his low shot wide when put clean through on the angle.

Hucknall seemed to be coping better than the home side on a 3G artificial pitch that made it difficult to get the ball down and play.

But just as they started to look comfortable with Watson causing all sorts of problems, Town had a reality check when James Lindley was called into emergency action and reacted superbly to clear his lines after a penetrative through-ball on 17 minutes.

The game was now developing into an end-to-end affair packed with action and Romulus should have broken the deadlock on 21 when the dangerous Marvin Johnson crossed for Marcus Brown, who fired wide with the gaping goal at his mercy.

Town continued to attack and after Romaine Graham failed to hit the target with a header from a corner and shouts for a penalty from Ryan were waved away, they made their ultimately crucial move and scored the only goal of the game.

The second half started slowly and a series of substitutions disrupted the flow of the action.

It wasn’t until a nervous closing period that Romulus looked capable of grabbing a leveller.

On 85 minutes, Lindley was forced into a smart save and then, two minutes into added time, a last-gasp clearance by a Town defender preserved the three-point haul.

Cue celebrations among the Town players and staff as the relief of an opening-day victory was there for all to see, even if those who saw it totalled just 91 in a paltry crowd.