Hinckley AFC inflicted Wolves Sporting’s first defeat in seventeen games with a 3-1 extra time win in the Buildbase FA Vase.
In what was a thrilling game and a superb advert for non-league football throughout, both sides had chances in an end to end first half that saw a goal for each side, a penalty saved and the woodwork struck five times.
A goalless second period sent the game into extra time, in which Paul Sullivan gave Hinckley the lead before Sam Agar secured progression – but only after Mark Williams’ goalline clearance prevented a 120th minute leveller for the visitors that would have sent the tie to a replay.
The win takes Hinckley’s unbeaten run to ten games, and sees Carl Abbott’s side progress to the Second Round for the first time.
Abbott named an unchanged side to the one that beat Pelsall Villa 6-0 last week, but it was their visitors who started the brighter of the two sides and Sporting were awarded a penalty just eight minutes in.
Referee Darren Laska felt Mark Williams had impeded Jak Barnes, and pointed to the spot. Dan Westwood stepped up, but his low spot kick was pushed around the post by a magnificent Haydn Whitcombe save.
Moments later, Dimitri Dunkley – a constant threat for Sporting – beat Whitcombe with a long range effort that cannoned off the post and the rebound fell just out of Westwood’s reach.
Wolves – and Westwood – weren’t to be denied for much longer though, and they took the lead on sixteen minutes. Rion Francis-Mills pulled back to Kieron Northwood, who struck the inside of the post. This time, the rebound fell perfectly for Westwood, who converted from close range despite Isaac Cooper’s best efforts to clear off the line.
After that, though, Hinckley started to play their game and had the better of the half, their first chance coming when Sean Williams’ 30 yard free kick hit the bar.
Then, Jamal Clarke found space at the far post, but the ball didn’t quite sit for him and he sliced wide when in a good position.
The end to end nature of the game continued when Sullivan was sent through on goal 25 minutes in, but he beat both ‘keeper Dan Crane and the far post with his effort.
But Sporting are approaching 50 goals for the season already and were always a threat, mostly through Dunkley and Westwood. On 36 minutes, the latter’s neat turn called Whitcombe into action, while at the other end Sullivan’s similarly neat turn forced Crane into a diving save.
As the game approached the interval, it looked as though Wolves would hold out for a half time advantage, especially when Agar set up Sullivan only for his close range header to crash off the bar.
But on the stroke of half time, Hinckley grabbed the leveller they deserved. Sullivan’s good running saw him fed on the right hand side before finding Lee Butler. Butler jinked past his man, and Agar’s powerful first time shot from the edge of the box nestled in the bottom corner via the inside of the post.
After the break, Hinckley could have taken the lead for the first time when Cooper blazed over from twelve yards after being set up by Agar.
Then, Sporting were fortunate to keep eleven men on the pitch when Scott Cooper only saw yellow for his two footed lunge on Sean Williams in the centre circle.
As both sides started to feel the effects of the frantic first half, the tempo started to drop slightly, though Agar dragged wide and Seal saw an effort deflected past the post.
In Sporting’s best chance of the second half, Dunkley was involved again as he crossed for Cooper to power a free header over the bar from eight yards.
Neither side could truly test their opposing goalkeepers after that, and the game was forced into extra time.
But after the end to end nature of the first half, both sides’ energy levels were low going into the additional half hour and goal chances were few and far between.
Hinckley had the only real chance of extra time’s first period. Midway through it, Andy Westwood’s lofted ball picked out Agar, whose good touch allowed him the room for a shot that was blocked by Crane.
In the final fifteen minutes of the afternoon, Jon Letford volleyed straight at Whitcombe and Angelo Franco forced the ‘keeper into a diving save from his 25 yard free kick.
From the resulting corner though, the game was opened up again. Peter Williams broke forward at pace as AFC cleared the danger, and fed Sullivan down the left channel. The former Chasetown forward cut onto his right foot and powered a shot that took a deflection to beat Crane and nestle in the back of the net.
Then, Crane denied Seal as Hinckley looked to wrap the game up, but the game was agonisingly close to going to a replay in the final minute of extra time. Dunkley found a pocket of space in the middle of Hinckley’s half and fed Westwood, who prodded past Whitcombe but saw his effort cleared off the line by the recovering Williams racing back to save his team.
And that match saving clearance was rewarded even further just a minute later. With Wolves throwing men forward in search of the equaliser, Seal and Agar found themselves two on one when Hinckley attacked and the former found the latter to lob home to the jubilation of the supporters.
That put to bed a contest that was exhilarating throughout, and AFC will be in the hat for Monday’s Second Round draw for the first time.
Hinckley: Haydn Whitcombe, James Williams (Mike Harvey 20 (Peter Williams 76)), Isaac Cooper, Mark Williams, Jamal Clarke, Andy Westwood, Lee Butler (Leadun Dunlevy 79), Ryan Seal, Sam Agar, Paul Sullivan, Sean Williams. Subs not used: Tom Millington, Connor Pugh
Goals: Sam Agar (45, 121), Paul Sullivan (112)
Wolves: Dan Crane, Phillip McKerdy (Matt Vaughan 59), Jamal Fuller (Scott Cooper 31), Alex Moore, Jak Barnes, Mitch Clarke, Rion Francis-Mills (Jon Letford 103), Angelo Franco, Dan Westwood, Kieron Northwood, Dimitri Dunkley. Sub not used: Chris Rabone
Goal: Dan Westwood (16)