Sunday, 12 February 2017

Hucknall Town - Watnall Road


Hucknall Town FC
Watnall Road
Hucknall
Nottingham
NG15 6EY





Ground Number: 669
Saturday 11th February 2017
Hucknall Town 2-0 Eastwood Community
Central Midlands League Cup Quarter Final



HUCKNALL TOWN FC - A BRIEF HISTORY

The club were founded in 1943 as HUCKNALL COLLIERY WELFARE. They started out in local Nottinghamshire leagues, and in 1987 changed their name to HUCKNALL TOWN. For the first 2 seasons, the rebranded club remained in the Notts Alliance, finishing as champions on both occasions. For the following season, 1989/90, they joined the Central Midlands League, in it's wonderfully named Supreme Division. The success continued, with a further 2 championships  in their first two seasons at the new level, then after finishing as runners-up in 1991/92, they joined the NCEL for the following season. They were an instant hit here, finishing as runners-up to Lincoln United in their first season, and winning promotion to the Premier Division in the process. They struggled for the first few seasons, but improved to finish 6th in the 1996/97 season. The following couple of seasons saw a repid rise up the leagues. The NCEL Premier championship was followed up by a runners-up spot in the NPL Division 1 as they lost out to Droylsden on goal difference.

The turn of the century saw them compete for the first time in the NPL Premier, and after 4 seasons of consolidation, they won the league in 2003/04, gaining promotion to the newly formed Conference North. That season remains their highest ever finish, as their new home was actually at the same level on the non-league pyramid. Under normal circumstances, they'd have gone up in to the Conference Premier, but their ground was deemed insufficient for the top-tier of non-league football. Despite finishing 10th in their first season, the nest few seasons saw a gradual decline and after being reprieved from relegation in 2007/08 they went down the following season, after a bottom placed finish. Back in the NPL Premier for the 2009/10 season they spent two seasons here, then another two in the NPL D1 South following another couple of relegations. Their last season of 2012/13 saw another basement finish, with 4 wins all season and 171 league goals conceded. Financial issues had been dogging them for a while, and as their namesake Mick Hucknall once sang 'Money's Too Tight To Mention' For that reason they took the decision to drop 3 leagues into the step 7 Central Midlands League South. 2013/14 saw a season of rebuilding and consolidation, but for the past few seasons they have been trying to start the road to recovery. 4th and 3rd placed finishes have been followed up with another promotion challenge this season, sitting 4th with games in hand at the start of the game.



The club were FA Trophy finalists in 2004/05. Despite taking the scalp of former football league side Hereford United in the Quarter-Final they lost in the final on penalties to Grays Athletic, in a match played at Villa Park. Hucknall Town have never actually made it to the 1st Round of the FA Cup, though they have reached the 4th Qualifying Round five occasions. There have also been a couple of good runs in the FA Vase, reaching the 5th Round in 1990 and 1998. Locally, several league cups have been won, as well as the Notts Senior Cup on six occasions, as well as the Notts Intermediate Cup and Notts Junior Cup.

A number of famous players have turned out for the club, including future football league goalkeepers Saul Deeney and Stuart Nelson. The dugout has also seen a number of football league players including Phil Starbuck, Kevin Wilson, Andy Legg and Des Lyttle.  Hucknall was once a mining town, and until more recently was the home of Rolls-Royce for engine testing purposes. Former residents include former Nottingham Forest defender and one-time Wycombe loanee Steve Blatherwick. The town is twinned with Kramolna, a small village in the Czech Republic.



MY VISIT

I'd been wanted to visit Hucknall for a few years, as it was a decent ground. The town also looked a decent one too, with me visiting the excelllent Beer Shack micropub to get some takeout cider on the way back from North Ferriby earlier this season. Time was running out though, as they were leaving the ground for pastures new at the end of the season. With them playing in a small, 15-team league, midweek chances were extremely rare. I had tried to visit them for a game in March last season on my way back from Manchester. But after getting as far as Stoke, the game was called off and I had to turn on my heel and make my way back up to Cheadle Town, one of the few games on that night. The Saturday I chose to visit, Wycombe were at Stevenage, and although I'd have liked to go, there was no way I was paying the ludicrous £24 they were charging.

Even with me having to bear the cost of travel on my own to Hucknall, the day out would still probably work out cheaper than Stevenage. I'd tried to persuade fellow hoppers Anwar and Chris to accompany me, but they were busy elsewhere, despite the former having Hucknall as a ground he really wanted to visit. I always like a bit of Friday night football, and on the previous day I was overwhelmed with choice. The two favourites were Appleby Froderingham (involving an overnight stay before my game at Hucknall the following day) and Ely City v Haverhill Rovers. I'd discounted the former as it was a bit too far, and that was just as well as it was called off at lunchtime. On the day of the game, it was a busy Friday at work as per usual, and I finished at 2PM. As I travelled home, I was sceptical whether the game would actually go ahead, however a morning tweet by Ely City said that there were no pitch inspections planned. I had myself a bath and came back to see an update that there had been snow, and they would let us know if there was any inspection planned. No news was communicated for a while, and at 4.30 I decided against risking it, instead spending the evening catching up on things at home.

On the day of the game I woke around 8.30. having had a late night the night before. I grabbed some breakfast and had a bath, before going online. Even at this hour, plenty of games were falling to the weather, including one of my preferred backups at Retford. I made up my flask before leaving at 10.15. On the way I listened to The Two Mikes on TalkSPORT and the journey started pretty well. As soon as I hit the M1 though, the delays were frequent. In the worst part of the jams, I was able to check my phone and see matches falling like dominoes in the area that I was visiting. I was seriously worried that I'd be struggling for a game. However, simultaneously, Hucknall Town tweeted that the game was on, and the traffic magically cleared. From there on, there were no more issues and I arrived in Hucknall after half an hour delay at 1PM. To save time, I decided to park up halfway between the ground and town.



First stop was the brilliant Beer Shack micropub, an establishment I had stopped at to get some takeout cider on the way home once before. It didn't disappoint, having 12 real ciders on offer. My first half was a retry of Kentish Pip Craftsman, and I went on to try a new cider in Lyme Bay Honeydrift. As a fan of dry ciders, the former was definitly the better one. I also got a couple of pints of Lyme Bay Driftwood to take out. This was the only one I didn't get to try in last years Wetherspoons Cider Festival. I was glad to get my hands on it at last, and it would be my last of the evening, as I was saving it to have with Match Of The Day later on. From there I went for a wander down to to the town, which was a lot smaller than I expected. It does the job fairly reasonably well for shoppers, but it is a drinkers paradise, with a number of other decent establishments including a Wetherspoons and another Micropub. I was in the hunt for food, but after nothing grabbed my fancy, I started walking back to the ground, hoping to get something en route. However, all the places I had eyed up on the way to the pub were now shut, so I ended up walking back into town. It turned out to be a good choice - I went to a place called 'Hank Marvin's' where the Breakfast Bap and chips turned out to be generous in portion and very tasty.



With time not on my side, I walked back towards the ground. I paid £4 to get in, plus £2 for a mediocre programme, that was sold for about twice what it was worth. It had some decent stats, but the rest was mainly adverts and stuff that was cut and pasted. The ground was certainly impressive though, and very similar to North Ferriby. You have to wonder if the rules have become more relaxed, and where Hucknall Town would have been now, had they been allowed to compete in the Conference Premier following their promotion, and given a years grace to make improvements, as I believe Ferriby were. The game was a decent contest, if not a classic, with both teams fairly equal up until Hucknall Town opened the scoring on 39 minutes. It was a good cross from deep on the right hand side that was headed in at the far post by Matthew Brian. The hosts started to have the better of the game from then on, and they doubled their lead fifteen minutes from time. This time it was a bit of a mistake from Eastwood keeper Jack Walker, when he came out to clear, but didn't make proper contact with the ball. It hit a Hucknall player and the ball was deflected to Jaylee Hodgson to finish into an empty net.

That was how it stayed until the end, and Hucknall progress into the semi finals, though with the other 3 ties postponed today, they will have to wait to see who they are playing. The game finished quite late, and what with going to Tesco to get a couple of bits I needed, I didn't leave Hucknall until well after 5.30. I'd enjoyed my day, and was certainly glad that I'd decided to visit Watnall Road before it went, opposed to paying £24 to watch Wycombe lose 3-0 to Stevenage, in what was described by manager Gareth Ainsworth as our 'worst performance of the season. I got home just before 8PM, spending the evening doing very little. I enjoyed the Football League highlights and Match Of The Day, having my cider that I'd bought earlier. I had planned to go to the FA Sunday Cup game between Omonia and Chessington United the following day, but a combination of a late night and forgetting to set my alarm meant that I overslept by nearly four hours. I turned up 3 and a half hours late after rushing in, but I thought it would have been disingenuous of me to walk out at my normal time. Luckily it was a pretty easy day, but it meant that my next game would be on Tuesday when I am revisting Hillingdon Borough for their Middlesex Cup semi-final game against local rivals Harefield United.



THE GROUND

WATNALL ROAD is an excellent ground for the level, with it being fully covered on two sides. The ground has a capacitu of 4000, around half of which is covered, and 270 which are seats. There is a covered terrace at the far end of the stadium, whilst the one remaing side is open flat standing. There is a club shop at the ground, but it was closed on my visit, instead they were selling hats, scarves and badges behind the bar.

Talking of the bar, it's pretty decent, though it does get a bit crowded at half time. Here is where they also sell food, and though I was disappointed at the lack of pies, my half time chips at £1.50 were decent value. If you want more choice, the town is 15 minutes walk away. Here, The Beer Shack is excellent for real ales and ciders and Hank Marvin's is pretty good for food.


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