Hinckley AFC will go into the second leg of the Polymac Packaging League Cup semi-final with a one goal deficit after an end-to-end first leg ended 4-3 to St Andrews at Canal Street.
In what was an entertaining game for the neutral throughout, with plenty of action to warm the spectators on a chilly evening.
In a frantic start, the hosts raced into a two goal lead inside the opening five minutes but Hinckley turned the game on its head before half time with goals from Sam Agar, Ryan Seal and Javia Roberts.
But St Andrews came out the better side after the break and turned the tie around once again to take a slender advantage into the second leg at St John’s Park.
AFC made three changes to the side that beat Pershore Town on Saturday. Chad Degville-Cross came in at right back, Mark Williams came into the centre and Agar returned up front.
Had you looked at both sides’ league records before the game, they would have suggested that both sides were better going forward than they were at the back and that’s how the game proved, particularly for the opening half hour.
And after Agar headed comfortably wide in the opening 60 seconds, St Andrews took the lead on four minutes. With their first advances forward, Rob Morgan struck a precise low drive inside the far post from 20 yards.
And it was to get worse for Hinckley just a minute later, as Sam Hollis’ shot took a wicked deflection over a helpless Haydn Whitcombe.
But one thing Carl Abbott’s side never do in adversity is lie down, and shortly afterwards Ryan Seal forced home ‘keeper Alex Ram into a good save.
And before the quarter hour mark they were back in the game with a well-worked goal, in which Sean Williams fed Agar through on goal to give the striker a chance he rarely squanders.
With Hinckley’s deficit halved, the sides exchanged a couple of half chances before AFC levelled just before the half hour. Lee Thomas’ ball into the box ricocheted high into the air, where Agar challenged and the loose ball fell to Seal, who fired an exquisite first time volley into the bottom corner.
It was at this point that Hinckley started to get on top, Agar twice working space down the left but failing to call Ram into action.
But St Andrews were also fashioning chances too easily for Hinckley’s liking, and they also saw a tame effort deflected wide for a corner.
With the half coming to a close, Mark Williams scuffed wide and Sean Williams struck the base of the post as Hinckley sought a lead before the break.
And it came in first half stoppage time. Roberts found space down the right to run at the full back for the first time, and fired a cross-cum-shot which caught out the goalkeeper on a blustery evening and nestled inside the far post.
But St Andrews were keen to wipe out their deficit after the break, and Whitcombe prevented them doing so in the first minute of the second period by tipping Morgan’s shot around the post.
The game then became scrappy for a 15 minute spell as both sides settled back into the game, but Hinckley could have extended their lead further on the hour when Agar latched onto Roberts’ superb flick on but crashed his effort against the post.
And it was to prove costly as St Andrews equalised just a minute later. A mix up at the back saw Whitcombe forced into a fine initial save, but Mason Hirst drilled home the rebound.
And with 15 minutes left, St Andrews took the lead again. Shay Brennan rolled the defence too easily and fired home off the inside of the post.
In truth, Hinckley were flat after half time and had Whitcombe to thank for keeping the deficit to one goal as he made a good low save with his feet when one-on-one in stoppage time.
But Hinckley will take heart from most of their first half display against higher level opposition and the game is finely poised ahead of the second leg in three weeks’ time.
Hinckley: Haydn Whitcombe, Chad Degville-Cross, Lee Thomas, James Williams, Mark Williams, Andy Westwood, Lee Butler, Ryan Seal, Sam Agar, Javia Roberts (Paul Sullivan 70), Sean Williams. Subs not used: Lewis Riley, Leadun Dunlevy
Goals: Sam Agar (12), Ryan Seal (27), Javia Roberts (45+1)
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