NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Huntingdon Town make their point during an encouraging start to a new era
PUBLISHED: 13:45 30 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:53 04 August 2017
A Friday night of firsts ended in deadlock at Jubilee Park.
Huntingdon Town – under new management and featuring a host of new players in their new United Counties League Division One home – battled out a goalless draw against newly-promoted Pinchbeck in the opening non-league fixture of the 2017/18 season in this country.
Despite so many changes, some things always stay the same at this particular venue and the 221 people present were reminded of that by frequent downpours and a swirling wind which set a scene more resembling a mid-winter match than a season opener.
The elements made it difficult to believe it was still late July, but the early start to the campaign did no favours to Town bosses Jimmy Brattan and Ryan Hunnings, who are overseeing a summer of rebuilding following back-to-back basement finishes and a relegation from the Premier Division.
However, Huntingdon were generally well drilled which is testament to the work done by the new men at the helm. A clean sheet was a deserved reward for a full-blooded and hard-working display in which skipper James Seymour and fellow central defender Odie Wason were shining lights.
Seymour was one of only four retained players to feature in the Town starting line-up, while debutant Wason frequently put his body on the line during an impressive first outing for the club as one of seven competitive debutants.
Of course there is still much to work on for a squad of players still gelling.
Town, by their own admission, posed little attacking threat with the three best chances of the game all falling to their visitors.
The fact that key attacking players Chris Jones and Jamie Waterworth both missed the match due to injury was no doubt a factor in that lack of quality in the final third.
Perhaps luckily Pinchbeck were without their star forward, Ollie Maltby, who scored more than 50 goals last season as the Lincolnshire club won promotion from the Peterborough & District League.
He may well have taken a couple of the openings that fell to the visitors, although Town keeper Andrew Hewitt was not a man in the mood to be beaten.
He turned an Andrew Tidswell effort onto a post and denied Corey Kingston from a tight angle during the first half, and then made another terrific to stop to keep out a Tyler Wright header from point-blank range in the second period.
Hewitt was also involved when Pinchbeck saw a strong (in terms of volume anyway) appeal for a penalty ignored as Tidswell took a tumble in the box, and then gratefully grabbed an Ian Dunn effort in stoppage time as Huntingdon saw out the final few seconds with 10 men as Callum Walter limped off with all three substitutions having already been made.
Injuries to left-back Ruben Rey and midfielder Ben Keating were other causes for concern, but it was an encouraging night overall. If Town can add more attacking intent to a solid base, they should be capable of competing well at this level.
They are back in action on Saturday when they entertain higher-level Newport Pagnell Town in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup.
Huntingdon Town: Andrew Hewitt, Callum Walter, Ruben Rey (sub Josh Watson), James Seymour, Odie Wason, Chris Down, Jake Waterworth, Ben Keating (sub Ben Page), Richard Baines, Liam Rodden, Ashley Firth (sub Connor Clarke). Unused: Steven Slack, Jordan Bryant.