A fabulous second half turnaround earned Hinckley AFC all three points as they overturned a half time deficit to beat Leicester Road 3-1 at St John’s Park.
AFC found themselves a goal down at half time after a lacklustre first half showing, Greg Downes’ header separating the sides at the break.
But Hinckley were dominant for much of the second half, pulling level through Steve Hart’s penalty before Josh Willis bundled home a second.
And Hart secured all three points with a third deep into stoppage time, sparking jubilant scenes among the vast majority of the 281 in attendance as Hinckley took the bragging rights with their fifth win in six games against Leicester Road.
Manager Dale Belford made three changes to his side that lost to Walsall Wood last week. Richard Munday’s broken hand meant he dropped to the bench, while Mitchell Tomlinson and Kevin Thornton were also substitutes. Bekir Halil, Jake Healy and Luke Richards all came in.
It meant Hinckley changed their system but they took a while to get used to the new formation. It made for an open start to the game, with both goalkeepers making fine saves in the opening minutes to prevent an early goal.
First, from a Hinckley corner, the visitors broke forward through Nuno Gomes. The forward’s crossfield ball found Luke Kingsley-Smith on the corner of the box, and his effort was tipped over by a full stretch Ty Belford.
From the resulting corner, Hinckley half cleared and Gomes volleyed wide from Sam Munton’s recycled delivery.
At the other end, Will Highland was called into action for the first time shortly afterwards, tipping over with a good reflex save after Isaac Cooper’s long throw was flicked goalbound.
In truth, neither side really hit their straps in the first half but the visitors had more of the play early on and came close when Callum Earls headed over at the far post.
And they broke the deadlock on 25 minutes. Kingsley-Smith broke down the left and three unmarked players were queuing up to head home his deep cross. Captain Downes duly obliged to give his side the lead.
After that, the visitors seemed to let up and Hinckley had chances to level before the break. On the half hour, Healy’s corner fell to Hart, who created space for himself before firing a deflected shot that Jake Holt cleared off the line.
Then, on the stroke of half time, AFC had a golden chance to level. Richards was sent in behind, and after cutting back inside the recovering Earls, his effort bounced off the inside of the post and out. The rebound fell for Healy eight yards out, but with Highland lying helpless on the floor Healy’s effort was spectacularly cleared off the line by Callum Rudd.
The failure to convert that chance meant Hinckley went into half time a goal down, but whatever was said at the break had the desired effect. AFC controlled the second half for long spells, helped by the introduction of Thornton from the bench at half time.
They had the better of the game from the re-start, coming close early in the half when a free kick landed with Willis, who struck off target.
Then, Richards fired over on the angle before the same player slid wide at the near post from Hart’s low cross.
Hinckley were banging at the door by this point, and forced Highland into action once more when he had to tip wide from James Williams’ header.
Richard Lavery then flicked into the side netting and Hart’s right footer called Highland into routine work as Hinckley controlled possession, territory and chances.
Belford held a deflected header on a rare break forward for the visitors, and Hinckley made their second half showing count on the scoresheet as the game entered the final 25 minutes.
Midway through the half, they got the goal they deserved. Richards’ driving run from deep saw him enter the box before he was hauled down by Earls, who picked up his second booking in the space of 15 minutes as he was dismissed.
Highland guessed the right way from Hart’s spot kick, but couldn’t keep out the striker’s precise effort which nestled in the bottom corner to level affairs.
Now playing against ten men, Hinckley continued to dominate and Cooper twice went close from range, first having a shot held by Highland before he struck another effort which Highland spilled, grabbing at the second attempt just before the onrushing Dominic Perkins could score.
And with 11 minutes to go, Hinckley turned the game on its head. Hart was involved again, brilliantly beating the helpless Josh Unsworth on the outside before pulling back to the edge of the six yard box, where Willis bundled home Hinckley’s second.
Hinckley largely managed the game well after that as the game entered the final stages, and restricted their visitors’ chance to level. That was until the third minute of stoppage time, when Holt’s wide free kick was met by a powerful far post header which Belford tipped wide to preserve Hinckley’s lead.
From the resulting corner, AFC broke forward. Richards found Perkins, who crossed into the box where Hart’s first time volley flew agonisingly over the bar.
But it wasn’t to matter. A minute later, Hart picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and drove forward, dancing past a defender before rounding Highland and sliding home AFC’s third, Jarred Acton failing to clear until the ball had crossed the line.
That sent the majority inside the ground into delirium, with AFC’s fans and players alike celebrating the win that lifts them above Leicester Road and up to fourth in the Division One table.
Hinckley: Ty Belford, James Williams, Dominic Perkins, Jake Healy (Mitchell Tomlinson 52), Richard Lavery, Josh Willis, Isaac Cooper, Bekir Halil, Luke Richards, Steve Hart, Marcus Jackson (Kevin Thornton 46). Subs not used: Richard Munday, Kyle Minto, Ben Rad
Goals: Steve Hart (68 pen, 95), Josh Willis (79)
Leicester Road: Will Highland, Jarred Acton, Jack Harrison, Greg Downes, Callum Rudd, Callum Earls, Sam Munton (Joe Kennedy 87), Joe Lyne, Jake Holt, Luke Kingsley-Smith (Josh Unsworth 61), Nuno Gomes (Kieran Reid 87). Subs not used: Owen Whitehouse, Ricky Blewitt
Goal: Greg Downes (25)