‘WHO loves ya baby?’ was the well-known catchphrase of top cop Theo Kojak, fictional star of one of TV’s most popular series back in the 1970s.
And while Theo Smith bears no resemblance to the actor who created Kojak, Telly Savalas, he was certainly the man Hucknall Town wanted to love when they came up against Lincoln United.
For Smith, newly-recruited from Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South rivals Carlton Town, netted the only goal in a smash-and-grab win.
To continue the nostalgia theme, Town fans with long memories and/or greying hair will remember with fond affection the many clashes The Yellows enjoyed with Lincoln back in the 1990s when the sides were tussling for honours in the Central Midlands League and Northern Counties East League.
Although the Hartsholme Country Park venue was the same, this clash did not quite have the same air about it. But at least it finished like most of those before — with a Town victory.
And midfielder Smith, plunged into an emergency role as a makeshift striker, was the reason as he slammed an 82nd minute penalty into the top corner.
The spot-kick had been awarded out of the blue when a cross by full-back Kieran Walker was met by Lee McAnulty who, with his back to goal, was upended by Lincoln ‘keeper Phil McGann.
But it rewarded a workmanlike performance by Town, who were without both of their recognised frontmen, suspended duo Grant Ryan and Phil Massingham, and also lost key midfielder Anthony Gregory to injury after only eight minutes.
What they lacked in quality, they made up for in effort, with the back four, marshalled by veteran Chris Timons, laying a solid platform for a triumph very similar to that achieved at high-riding Leek Town the previous week.
Indeed, as at Leek, they could have snatched a second goal when Smith, who was a nuisance all afternoon, cut down the left in the last minute and squared for substitute Joel Goodacre, who sliced a shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Unlike Leek, Lincoln had been on a poor run of form, winning just once since Boxing Day, despite the presence at centre-half of former Chelsea and Mansfield defender Stuart Reddington.
And it showed as Town called the early tune, with debutants Tony Edwards and Lavell White almost conjuring a breakthrough goal.
However Lincoln could have snatched the lead with their first serious chance on 37 when Tom Garrick’s chip beat ‘keeper James Lindley, only for Walker to scramble back and clear off the line superbly.
The Yellows twice went close soon after the break as player/coach Craig Armstrong’s free-kick was tipped over the bar and Smith headed wide from the resultant corner.
But then the home side began to turn the screw and look the most likely winners — especially when striker Sam Wilkinson brought two fine saves from Lindley and squandered a one-on-one, shooting straight at the ‘keeper.