PUZZLED boss Des Lyttle is clamouring for more consistency from his players after a mysteriously poor performance derailed their push for the promotion play-offs.
Hucknall were expected to return home with all three points from their first-ever trip to Market Drayton Town in north Shropshire.
But instead they crashed to a 3-0 defeat against a struggling Drayton side sitting in the bottom four of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South table.
And Lyttle could not put his finger on the reason for such a setback, which dropped them to ninth, five points from the play-off slots.
“It was very disappointing,” confessed the former Nottingham Forest defender. “We started pretty well but the goals we conceded were really poor.
“We just didn’t go about our individual jobs or our job as a team well enough. And when you don’t do that, you’re always going to be in for a difficult afternoon.
“I’m not thinking about the play-offs. I’m just wanting to win football matches and we’ll see where that takes us. But we must show more consistency.”
Lyttle refused to use the two-week break because of the bad weather or complacency against relegation-threatened rivals as excuses. Nor would he blame the club’s off-the-field traumas that led to the ousting of owners Steve Greaves and Michael Johnson.
“The attitude of the squad is good, and we prepared for the game as best we can,” said the Yellows chief.
“Despite the weather, we trained as much as possible. We trained in the snow and on the 3G pitch at Rolls-Royce.”
The most worrying aspect of last Saturday’s trip was that Hucknall failed to trouble a Drayton side with the worst defensive record in the division — 72 goals leaked in 31 games. Especially as the home team’s ‘keeper was Matt Cohen, who normally plays at centre-back but was called up because their two first-choice goalies were suspended.
The absence of Leicester City-bound teenager Corey Gregory (SEE LEFT) was hardly a valid excuse either, because the Yellows were able to field a near full-strength squad.
In the first half-hour, striker Aaron Farrell should have done better with an opening, while winger Aidan Brady elected to cross rather than shoot when getting into the box and top scorer Grant Ryan was adjudged offside when well placed.
But Drayton looked more threatening and wasted a golden chance in the 41st minute when pacy winger Darryl Proffit blasted over from 12 yards when a cross was missed by the Hucknall defence.
Goalkeeper James Lindley was then lucky to get away with a misjudgement as another cross came over. But the home side still found time to make their breakthrough when a harmless-looking ball struck a defender on the arm. Hopeful appeals for a penalty were controversially upheld by referee Kuzmanovic, and up stepped Martin Davies to tuck away the spot-kick.
Hucknall had similar penmalty-claims rejected early in the second half. But buoyed by their goal, Drayton, who are managed by ex-Burnley and Walsall boss Jimmy Mullen, began to take control.
A 30-yard lob almost caught Lindley stranded and then Tom Rodgers blasted over before the second goal midway through the half. This time, good work by man-of-the-match Proffit released Davies, whose shot from distance found the corner of the net.
In response, Lyttle sent on substitutes Phil Massingham and new signing Lee McAnulty, hero of the county cup win against Gedling Miners Welfare the previous midweek. But not until the 85th minute did his side create their first effort on target — a weak header from Ryan that was easily saved by makeshift cat Cohen.
By now, Drayton were full of confidence and sealed their victory with a third goal four minutes from time when sub Craig Ryan outpaced centre-back Chris Timons for a low, curling drive into the corner.