Hinckley AFC and Racing Club Warwick both spurned two-goal leads to share the spoils in an eight-goal thriller at St John’s Park.
The two sides both battling for a top four spot served up a classic, with a topsy-turvey game that had just about everything.
Warwick came flying out of the blocks and were 2-0 up thanks to Sean Kavanagh and Trea Bertie, but Steve Hart’s hat-trick and Luke Richards’ goal turned the game on its head.
It set Hinckley on the way to all three points, but Wade Malley’s stunner and Martin Slevin’s late penalty salvaged a point for the visitors.
Richard Lavery made one change to his Hinckley side that was beaten by Uttoxeter Town last week. Richard Munday returned at the back, with Josh Willis moving into midfield and Jack Sutherland dropping to the bench.
The Racers, meanwhile, were forced to play striker Luke Cole in goal and came into the game off the back of a 6-4 defeat at Nuneaton Griff on Easter Saturday.
And although Hinckley had the first chance, when Richards headed Josh Burniston’s cross wide, it was Warwick who started the game on top and they took the lead nine minutes in. It came from a Hinckley corner, but Hart was caught on the ball and the visitors broke quickly through Bertie. He outpaced his man down the right before crossing for Kavanagh, unmarked, to head home from close range.
And Hinckley had barely regrouped after that goal when they found themselves two goals down. It was a fine solo effort from Bertie, who somehow danced past every challenge on the edge of the box before bundling past Carl O’Neill from 12 yards.
With Hinckley still on the back foot, Lavery had to clear off the line from Kavanagh’s angled drive, before Joe Carter’s header from the resulting corner was deflected wide as Hinckley struggled to gain a foothold in the game.
But gradually, as the half wore on, they did just that and Kai Tonge’s driving run and shot forced Cole into action for the first time with a smart save.
From the resulting corner, James Williams ballooned over as Hinckley started to threaten.
And midway through the half, they halved the deficit. It came courtesy of a moment of brilliance from Hart, who controlled expertly before leaving two defenders for dead and sliding home after rounding Cole.
It was the striker’s 40th Hinckley goal in just 31 games, and he wasn’t done there.
While the first 15 minutes was mostly one way traffic towards Hinckley’s goal, the tide was now heading in the opposite direction and for the next stage of the game Warwick struggled to relieve the pressure.
More good work by Burniston resulted in Willis shooting over, before Munday headed wide from James Jepson’s free kick and Richards saw a headed goal disallowed for offside.
All that came by the half hour mark, and with Hinckley on top they found the equaliser 11 minutes before the break. Tonge did well to beat his man and get to the byline, pulling back where Willis dragged goalbound and Hart’s backheel flick at the far post nestled in the corner to level.
Set back by Hinckley’s comeback, Warwick called O’Neill into action again when he did well to hold Kavanagh’s effort at his near post but that was the only other time Hinckley’s keeper was called into action during the first half.
As Hinckley sought to go into the interval ahead, Tonge fired narrowly wide of the target and Richards’ pinpoint low cross was inches away from being met by the same player at the far post.
They may not have gone into the interval ahead, but it took just five minutes after the break for Hinckley to turn the game on its head as Hart grabbed his hat-trick. With Warwick expecting the striker to shift onto his left, he took advantage of the space on his right foot, beating the defence before slotting past the advancing Cole to give AFC the lead for the first time.
Hinckley started the second half as they ended the first, and Lavery came close to adding a fourth when he headed Jepson’s free kick narrowly wide.
But the fourth goal did arrive just after the hour mark. Hart’s stood up cross was a teaser, which Cole flapped at and Richards was on hand to force home from barely a yard out.
To Cole’s credit, it was the only time during the game that you could tell he wasn’t a regular goalkeeper but Hinckley took full advantage of the mistake to sit two goals to the good.
But two-goal leads in matches involving Hinckley are rarely comfortable ones, and straight away the Racers fought to get back in the game as James Williams cleared Bertie’s shot from inside the six yard box.
For Hinckley, Hart lashed a volley wide and Tonge headed wide from Burniston’s cross, but Warwick were having increasingly more possession as the clock ticked down.
But they didn’t test O’Neill until 12 minutes remaining, when they pulled themselves back within a goal. It was all down to Malley, who netted with a stunning strike as he cut inside from the right and bent an effort from a tight angle into a postage stamp in the top corner.
That lifted the visitors’ spirits, and they now sensed they could get something from the game. They were always likely to have a big chance, and they got it with three minutes to play. Kavanagh got the wrong side and Lavery was adjudged to have brought him down, Hinckley’s player-manager sent off for a second booking.
Slevin stepped up from the spot and just about converted the penalty, O’Neill’s strong hand only pushing the ball into the top corner rather than just the wrong side of the post as Warwick found themselves level again.
Despite plenty of endeavour in the final few minutes, neither side could force a real chance with only Bertie’s scuffed 20-yarder coming close to the target.
And so a breathless 90 minutes ended with the sides taking a point apiece, with Hinckley needing a quick recovery ahead of Saturday’s game against Coventry Copsewood.
Hinckley: Carl O’Neill, James Williams, Mitchell Tomlinson, James Jepson, Richard Munday, Richard Lavery, Kai Tonge, Josh Burniston, Luke Richards, Steve Hart (Jack Sutherland 85), Josh Willis. Subs not used: Jonathan Bukasa, Asa Wright, Chad Timson
Goals: Steve Hart (23, 34, 50), Luke Richards (61)
Warwick: Luke Cole, Elliott Powell (John Blunsom 77), Ryan Billington (Lewis Hudson 83), Martin Hutchcox, Jamie Coleman, Martin Slevin, Richard Powell, Joe Carter, Wade Malley, Trea Bertie, Sean Kavanagh. Subs not used: Callum Bell, Alex Price
Goals: Sean Kavanagh (9), Trea Bertie (11), Wade Malley (78), Martin Slevin (87 pen)