Hinckley AFC saw a lead clawed back four times as Heath Hayes took a point from St John’s Park in an action packed encounter.
The stubborn visitors refused to be beaten and never let Hinckley get out of sight despite the home side leading on four separate occasions.
Ryan Baldwin’s lob, a Steve Hart brace and a Richard Lavery assisted own goal all put Hinckley in the driving seat during the afternoon, but each time their defensive frailties were exposed by their visitors in an enthralling encounter.
Under the watch of new manager Dale Belford, there was certainly food for thought for the incoming boss as he looks to shore up the back line.
The game was Dean Thomas’ last in interim charge, and he made three changes to the side that lost to Heather St John’s in the Polymac Packaging League Cup on Tuesday. Richard Munday and Marcus Jackson returned, while there was a debut in goal for Rhys Bills after Haydn Whitcombe’s departure for Market Drayton.
And less than five minutes had passed when Hinckley led for the first time. Baldwin’s floated shot was goalbound, but clipped the top of a defender’s head as it caught out Tony Allsopp in the visiting goal.
Lavery and Luke Edwards then both went close to extending that lead as Hinckley enjoyed most of the opening play.
But on 25 minutes, Hinckley were pegged back and it was one of their former players who did the damage. A ball from the left evaded the defence to find Brad Rolston at the far post, who drilled beyond Bills to level with the visitors’ first real chance.
The equaliser upset Hinckley’s rhythm somewhat, but they still had chances late in the half through Hart, who headed high and wide from James Williams’ cross, and Edwards, who forced a strong save from Allsopp.
AFC thought they had retaken the lead on the stroke of half time, but after rifling home a free kick at the far post, Munday’s celebrations were cut short by the offside flag.
The second half started in similar fashion, and AFC were denied strong penalty claims before Hart restored the lead just afterwards. Edwards rolled a defender and released is strike partner who cut onto his left foot and slotted into the far corner.
Not to be deterred, Heath Hayes fought back again and after Munday’s fine clearing header, they levelled again. Top scorer Regan Smith found the corner with a glancing header to restore parity.
Smith then fired well over as Heath Hayes sought to turn the game on its head, but it was Hinckley who scored next through Hart’s fine solo goal midway through the half. With little support offered, he kept the ball superbly and when he found half a yard of space, he needed no second invitation to fire home his second of the half.
But again, Hinckley couldn’t keep hold of their lead and Heath Hayes levelled for a third time eight minutes later. Bills misjudged the flight of the ball, which allowed Dan Evans to score.
With the end-to-end nature of the game continuing, it was just four minutes later when Isaac Cooper’s free kick was met by Lavery, whose header was deflected beyond Allsopp to put Hinckley ahead again.
But such was the topsy-turvey nature of the game, you always felt Heath Hayes had another goal in them and so it proved. Bills made a fine reaction save after a scramble in the box, but the rebound fell nicely for Adam Weldon to stroke into the empty net.
It proved to be the final goal of a thrilling game, but Hinckley were grateful to Bills for a strong save from Rolston in stoppage time to ensure they left with a point.
There will be plenty for Belford to ponder ahead of his first game in charge against Aylestone Park on Tuesday evening.
Hinckley: Rhys Bills, James Williams, Isaac Cooper, Richard Lavery, Richard Munday, Ben Rad, Marcus Jackson, Danny Edwards (Kyle Minto 61), Luke Edwards (Chad Timson 84), Steve Hart, Ryan Baldwin. Subs not used: Matt Jelfs, Zack Stretton
Goals: Ryan Baldwin (5), Steve Hart (54, 69), OG (81)
Heath Hayes: Tony Allsopp, Adam Weldon, Dan Evans, Andrew Davis, Alex Scott, Jack Arrowsmith, Brad Rolston, Jack Weldon, Regan Smith, Kieron Nelson, James McGrady. Subs not used: Chris Horton, Ben Cooling
Goals: Brad Rolston (25), Regan Smith (61), Dan Evans (77), Adam Weldon (87)