Hucknall Town 0 Notts County 1

Saturday 2nd July 2011
Hucknall Town 0 Notts County 1
Pre-season Friendly
At: Walnall Road
Kick-off: 3-15 pm
Admission: £8; Programme: £2
Attendance: 1200 (estimate)
Weather: Dry with prolonged spells of hot sunshine
Duration: first-half: 45:00; second-half: 46:00

The 2011/12 season is up and running with a fifth visit to Hucknall Town’s Watnall Road ground with League One neighbours Notts County being the visitors this afternoon.

Travelling to the game, I contemplated watching a pre-season game on the first Saturday of July and my mind flashed back to 1990 when I remember thinking that a friendly played on 14th July was ridiculously early. Of course back then it was early as league action didn’t get underway until late August. This season Notts County play their first league game in five weeks time and Hucknall in six weeks time so a first friendly on the first Saturday of July isn’t perhaps ‘ridiculous’ after all.

For the 2011/12 season, Hucknall find themselves back in Step 4 – Evo-stik League Division 1 South to be precise – following relegation from the Premier Division at the end of last season on the back of off-the-field problems. Notts faced their own relegation battle last season and avoid the drop by just three points.

Hundreds of Notts County fans boosted the crowd to what I estimated to be around 1200 and I wonder how many of them watched two County games today. The squad was split with one group playing at Ilkeston (1 pm) and the remainder at Hucknall. The cleverly scheduled kick-off of 3-15 pm made sure fans could comfortably make the 6-mile journey from the New Manor Ground in time for kick-off at Watnall Road.

Notts County (wearing their traditional black and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the covered end and their keeper Stuart Nelson was certainly kept busy during the first half.

Hucknall (in their familiar colours of yellow shirts, black shorts and yellow socks) almost took the lead in the 22nd minute. Martin Ball powered a header towards goal from a deep left-wing corner which Kyle Dixon headed off the line. The home side kept up the pressure and Nelson, who played for Hucknall eight seasons ago, did well to keep out a decent shot from Carl Westcarr. Just before the break, Westcarr hit a well-struck drive which was beaten away by the County keeper.

Goalless at the interval and both sides made wholesale changes for the start of the second half. Most were ‘mystery’ men as just the first-half starting line-ups were announced on the PA.

The only goal of the game came in the 76th minute. ‘Number 18’ fired a low left-foot shot from the edge of the area that beat the diving Hucknall keeper and went in via the left-hand post. And the identity of the scorer could remain a mystery as Notts County’s official website names him only as ‘trialist’.

Hucknall had chances to equalise and, just to prove how difficult it can be to accurately report a pre-season game, a player with no number fired wide of the left-hand post from a decent position. Karl Hawley, wearing the number 19 shirt for County, fired a 15-yard shot straight at the Hucknall keeper. In the closing stages, Hucknall’s no. 3 launched an incredibly long throw from the left which bounced inside the area which keeper Liam Mitchell palmed over the bar.

All-in-all it was a winning afternoon for both sides – County on the field and Hucknall off it with the proceeds of a bumper gate.

Next game for me will be at Marston Road next Saturday when Greg Clowes’ new-look Stafford Rangers side face a Port Vale XI.

Starting line-ups:
Hucknall Town (yellow/black/yellow): 1. Jack Harvey, 2. Romaine Graham, 3. Kieran Walker, 4. Wayne Duik, 5. Martin Ball (capt), 6. Jarrad Holmes, 7. Natahn Watson, 8. Dan Eilliott, 9. Grant Ryan, 10. Carl Westcarr, 11. Callum Lloyd.

Notts County (black and white stripes / black / black): 17. Stuart Nelson, 2. Julian Kelly, 3. Trialist, 4. Hamza Bencherif, 5. Christian Pearce (capt), 6. Curtis Thompson, 7. Kyle Dixon, 8. George Nichols, 9. Trialist, 10. Phil Brown, 11. Ishmel Demontagnac.

Referee: ???
Assistants: ???

0-1 no. 18 Trialist (76)

Hucknall: none
Notts County: none