RELIEVED Hucknall Town gaffer Tommy Brookbanks says his Hucknall Town charges have “proved a point” by making an unbeaten start to the new football season.
The Yellows began their new amateur era — brought about because of their well-documented financial troubles — with an opening-day 1-0 victory away to Romulus on Saturday August 13 and a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Leek Town at Watnall Road on Wednesday August 17 in the Evo-Stik League, Division One South
Now the boss is urging the Hucknall faithful to get behind him and his players in a bid to “help the club survive and bring back the good times”.
Buoyed by the results, Brookbanks said: “This group of players are probably the best I have ever worked with.
“Their attitude has been first class. They have been through a hell of a lot and still are. But they have been fantastic.
“I know it is an old adage, but we will take one game at a time. The one thing I can promise the supporters is that we will give them everything.
“It was definitely appreciated against Leek as the crowd applauded the lads off the pitch.
“As long as the players can look me in the eye after a game and tell me they have given everything, that’s all I can ask.”
A decent gate of 175 was recorded for the midweek game against Leek, who finished in the bottom half of the table last year — despite boasting the division’s top scorer of the last two seasons, the prolific Matt Haddrell.
But the striker didn’t get a sniff as 20-year-old Yellows centre-half Romaine Graham was given a brief to man-mark the dangerman and managed to snuff out any threat.
The man-of-the-match performance of Graham attracted rave reviews from Brookbanks, who said: “It was a brilliant display. They boy came of age.”
The match was very tight from the first whistle and was played at a frenetic pace with both sides struggling to get the ball down and play.
But Hucknall, who forced no less than ten corners, had the better chances of the clash.
Two glorious one-on-one opportunities fell to front man Grant Ryan in the space of five first-half minutes.
On 25, James Jepson sent Ryan through between the full-back and central defender but the ‘keeper made a good, low save to his left.
Then, on 30 minutes, Ryan was faced with an almost identical chance but he was again denied by the goalie, who this time dived smartly to his right to push the strike away for a corner.
The closest The Yellows came to breaking the stalemate in the second half was when Nathan Watson, who scored the only goal of the game against Romulus, picked up the ball on 58 minutes.
He cut in from the left and unleashed a piledriver from 20 yards that looked like it was arrowing towards the top corner. But the Leek custodian flew through the air and clawed the ball away.
In truth, the visitors lacked a cutting edge at the other end and Yellows ‘keeper James Lindley barely had a save to make.
But Brookbanks was pleased with what was “a fair result” to cement a return of four points from the first two games of the campaign.
Especially considering he could only muster a bare 14 players because of Jared Holmes, Kieron Walker, Matthieu Isamene and Joel Goodacre being missing because of slight knocks. A more serious absentee was Dean Gent, who suffered a knee-injury in pre-season and is awaiting the results of a scan to determine whether he will be sidelined for a long period.
“I would have taken that (a win and a draw) before the first ball was kicked,” said Brookbanks, who is having to manage a playing staff without being able to pay wages because of tens of thousands of pounds worth of VAT debt hanging over the club.
“I haven’t got a clue how this season will unfold. But one thing we must be is solid. That’s why we are delighted to have kept clean sheets in both of our opening games.
“The opening day of a season is always very cagey and the football is never beautiful. It is about getting things started and getting a win under your belts.
“After all our troubles, a lot of people have been predicting that we are going to get a hammering this season and it is nice to prove a point.
“I expect Romulus to be a top-ten side and I think Leek will be there or there abouts.”
Hucknall now turn their attentions to a clash with Brigg Town at Watnall Road on Saturday August 20 and then an away trip to Coalville Town on Tuesday August 23.
Against Brigg, The Yellows will be looking for their first win on home soil since November 13 last year.
“It wasn’t a bad crowd at all against Leek,” said Brookbanks. “Let’s hope they follow that up against Brigg now they realise we are not going to be cannon fodder.
“We are all fighting hard and pulling in the right direction. We are doing this to keep this football club alive for hopefully better times ahead.
“The good times have been and gone, but we are trying to retrieve them. The more supporters we get through the gates, the quicker we can pay off our debts.
“It would have been easy to walk away. But we think a lot of this club and think that if we can get through this tough period there will be brighter times ahead.”