Town step up promotion bid

NHUD11-2938-3'Hucknall Town v Market Drayton
NHUD11-2938-3'Hucknall Town v Market Drayton

PROMOTION is firmly on the agenda at Watnall Road after a sparkling performance lifted Hucknall Town into the top-five play-off places.

Long-time fans will remember the Central Midlands League and Northern Counties East League days of the 1990s when Town and Lincoln United locked horns regularly as they climbed the non-league ladder almost in sync.

And the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South table suggested last Saturday’s clash would be just as close, with only two places and three points separating them.

But the reality was anything but as The Yellows produced their most complete performance yet since Des Lyttle replaced Tommy Brookbanks as manager.

Now Lyttle is determined to remain in the play-offs zone for as long as possible, particularly after the encouraging words he heard from new chairman and joint owner Steve Greaves as Lincoln rolled into town.

“The fans can rest assured that if we are still in a strong position at Christmas, we will push to get up,” said the bullish Greaves.

“It is in my plans to get promoted this season and to be in the Conference North in three years, and I’m sure Des will do the job on the pitch.”

No pressure then, Des! But no problems either judging by the way Town disposed of a Lincoln side, who had lost only once on their travels previously this term.

Lyttle tweaked his line-up, giving a debut to on-loan centre-half Liam Wakefield and in the absence of injured winger Aidan Brady, switching to a 4-1-1-1 formation, with Corey Gregory in a more advanced position.

It worked a treat, with on-loan Sheffield United teenager Gregory scoring two of the goals in a clinical performance that extended their unbeaten run to four.

“It was a really good display,” reflected Lyttle. “Lincoln came here on the back of a fine run, so it was a good test for us.

“But we stood up to it. We played some quality football and took our chances well. The lads are really beginning to show signs that they realise where we want to take this club.”

Town set a good tempo from the off and after a couple of scares at the other end, they broke the deadlock just past the half-hour mark. The goal came moments after Lincoln had lost centre-back Sean Wright to a head injury — Gregory racing on to a through ball to fire home from the edge of the box.

The goal gave Town all the confidence they needed and they poured forward in search of a killer second.

Early in the second half, Lincoln continued to remind The Yellows that the game was far from over.

But backed by a vociferous, if small, crowd, Town stepped up the pressure and doubled their lead in the 63rd minute. A long ball out of defence found Grant Ryan, who brilliantly used his body to turn his marker and bear down on goal. Unselfishly, he squared for Gregory, who made no mistake from six yards.

Gregory came within a whisker of his hat-trick when chipping the ‘keeper, only to see the ball drop the wrong side of a post.

But it was Ryan who sealed the points ten minutes from the end when impressive new signing Jermaine Hollis beat two men on the right and delivered a cross that the striker toepoked home at the near post.