Hinckley AFC failed to win for the first time since October as the ten men of Lichfield City earned a battling point in a 2-2 draw.
In search of an eighth straight win, all looked rosy for Dale Belford’s side at half time as Steve Hart’s opener gave them a lead, before the home side’s Lewis Bourne saw red.
But the hosts battled valiantly after the break and out-fought Hinckley, turning the game on its head through Dan Griffiths and Ben Lund.
It looked as though Hinckley would taste defeat, but Dominic Perkins tapped home a late leveller to maintain the unbeaten run, even though the winning streak came to an end.
Belford made one change to his Hinckley side that beat Nuneaton Griff a fortnight ago. Josh Willis returned in midfield in place of Asa Wright.
The first stages of the game were open, and chances came regularly at both ends. In the first opportunities for either side, Luke Richards had an effort deflected wide for Hinckley before Richard Lavery’s back header was short and only the alert Ty Belford denied Lund a shot.
It set the tone for the opening quarter of the game, and both sides were indebted to their goalkeepers for ensuring the opening goal took as long as it did.
That said, home ‘keeper Russell Todd’s first action was to spill Hart’s tame effort, but his next action was more assured as Richards caught the defence napping, racing in behind only for Todd to deny him.
With Lichfield also threatening, Lund was their main outlet and his pace caused problems all afternoon. When he caught Hinckley on the break, he outpaced the defence but fired straight at Belford.
Before the resulting corner was cleared, Lund met a cross but was again denied by Belford, who was at full stretch to tip away the header.
All that came before the quarter hour mark, and the chances continued when Isaac Cooper’s long range free kick was deflected narrowly wide.
With Lund still the home side’s primary threat, he was at the forefront when Lichfield broke from a Hinckley corner but after outpacing Hinckley’s defence, his shot was again too easy for Belford.
Then, Tom Howard headed wide as Lichfield started to have the better of the chances, but they didn’t take them and that came back to haunt the hosts on 24 minutes.
From Richards’ good running down the left, and low cross was touched by a defender but still found its way to Hart, who took one touch before sliding into the bottom corner with Todd helplessly on the ground.
And six minutes later, Lichfield’s task was made even more difficult. Hart was battling for the ball on the floor until Bourne dived in with a two-footed lunge and was sent for an early shower.
And with Lichfield still re-grouping, Hinckley had the better of the rest of the first half. Todd denied Richards when one-on-one again, Marcus Jackson sliced wildly wide on the angle and Cooper’s well-struck 20 yarder was beaten away.
Then, on the stroke of half time, Hart’s deft lob, similar to the one which won the game at Griff two weeks ago, looked destined for the same result until Joe Cornforth, racing back, cleared off the line.
It meant Hinckley carried only a slender lead into half time, but if they thought it would be a comfortable second half against ten men, Lichfield were to prove them wrong.
The home side out-battled Hinckley after the break, and made their intentions clear from the re-start. Lund outpaced Bekir Halil to race through on goal, and tried to round Belford who gathered at the striker’s feet.
Next time, though, he turned provider and Griffiths didn’t make the same mistake. Lund’s pace caused problems again, but this time he squared to the edge of the box where Griffiths coolly slotted home the equaliser.
That didn’t wake Hinckley up, and even though substitute Jamie Hall had an effort deflected just wide, Lichfield continued to have the better of proceedings when Lund dragged wide from 20 yards.
Even though they were up against it, Hinckley still had chances and should have re-taken the lead. Hart’s free kick was comfortably saved, but the same player somehow failed to score his second of the game on 71 minutes. He met Richards’ low cross barely a yard out, but somehow the ball skewed wide with the goal gaping.
Hart’s third chance in quick succession came just afterwards, when his header was palmed away by Todd.
As it was, Lichfield scored the next goal just a minute later. A long ball caught out the Hinckley defence, allowing Lund to run through on goal and this time he made no mistake in finding the bottom corner.
That left Hinckley stunned, and Griffiths twice could have put the game to bed but first dragged wide, before shooting straight at Belford.
And with the clock running down, it looked as though Hinckley would taste defeat despite a late spell of pressure.
That was until the 87th minute, when Todd parried away from Hart’s angled drive, but the rebound fell straight to Perkins who tapped home on the line.
That salvaged the unbeaten run, but meant the streak of seven consecutive wins came to an end as Lichfield earned their point despite their numerical disadvantage.
Hinckley now return to St John’s Park to take on another free-scoring side in Heather St John’s on Boxing Day.
Lichfield: Russell Todd, Lewis Bourne, Kyle Bache (Dale Roberts 73), Joe Cornforth, Dan McLeod, Anthony Juxon, Dan Thurstance, Tom Howard, Ben Lund, Dan Griffiths, Matt Tolley (Joe Speck 51). Subs not used: Charlie Jones, Jordan Lewis, Dan Shepperd
Goals: Dan Griffiths (53), Ben Lund (73)
Hinckley: Ty Belford, James Williams, Dominic Perkins, Josh Willis (Jamie Hall 54), Richard Lavery (Mitchell Tomlinson 87), Harry Harris (Kevin Thornton 54), Isaac Cooper, Bekir Halil, Luke Richards, Steve Hart, Marcus Jackson. Subs not used: Jamie Sutherland, Lamar Graham
Goals: Steve Hart (24), Dominic Perkins (87)