Hucknall boss Graves gets his man as Whitt shines

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Hucknall Town boss Andy Graves is convinced he has finally got his man as new signing Ashley Whitt scored two and made two in their opening Central Midlands League South 7-0 thrashing of Holbrook St Michaels on Saturday.

Desperate for a quality finisher, Graves has been tracking striker Whitt for some time and was delighted with his debut.

“I’ve been very patient as I’ve been after him since before pre-season,” said Graves.

“We’ve been in conversation and I’ve been trying to persuade him that we’ve got a good thing going here.

“He was obviously a bit reluctant to drop down as, wherever he was before, he was getting paid. But finally patience has paid off.

“I just left it with him. I would never chase a player. I set the seed, let them know what’s available and how it all works, and hopefully they will come and have a look.

“He came a fortnight ago, played in a behind-closed-doors game and scored two and said to me afterwards: ‘you weren’t wrong when you said you played football - I really enjoyed it and I’d like to sign’.

“So he signed and on Saturday he scored two and made two, you can’t ask for more than that, though now he’s set his standard.”

This is actually Whitt’s second spell with Graves at Hucknall, thought the last one ended abruptly.

“Three seasons ago when we took over I did sign him late on.

“He came on as a sub against Southwell then broke his leg playing for the university team on the Wednesday so we didn’t see him again,” recalled Graves.

“Then he got himself fit, played for South Normanton in the East Midlands Counties and was banging the goals in.

“I’ve been tracking him since then and it’s paid off. He is someone we think will help us – he knows where the goal is.

“Without wanting to put pressure on him, he is probably that 20-goal-a-season striker that we have lacked.

“We created an awful lot of chances last year but sometimes for whatever reason we didn’t take them.”

Graves was happy with the opening day seven-goal salvo, but also remained philosophical.

“We are not getting carried away as it was only the first game, and we know we are going to get stronger challenges,” he said. “Then again you can only beat what is put in front of you.

“I’ve been trying to instil in us that we need to be ruthless and clinical and, to be fair, we should probably have got double figures on Saturday.

“There were still one or two easy chances that were missed and in bigger games they could be the deciding thing. So we’ve still got areas to improve. But it’s a good foundation.”

Along with Whitt, Graves had two other debutants.

“We also had Jordan Phillips, who has moved up from the reserves and did really well, and goalkeeper Mike Randall, who has moved up from the reserves as our usual keeper has just started training to be a doctor, so we’ll only have him as and when,” he said.

On Saturday Hucknall welcome newcomers South Normanton and Graves said: “They will be a good test. They will probably play good football.

“To be fair to Holbrook on Saturday the first 10 minutes were cagey. I think it was when we scored and then scored again quickly afterwards and their resilience was just broken down. But they never gave up.”

Graved added: “Of our rivals for promotion, on the first weekend three of them lost which was a good weekend for us without playing.

“Only Sherwood got maximum points and, obviously, they are going to be up there with us.”