A scintillating second half display saw Hinckley AFC score five times as they cruised to a comprehensive 6-1 win over landlords Heather St John’s.
The game was finely poised at the interval after Simeon Cobourne cancelled out Kai Tonge’s early opener for Hinckley in the warm spring sunshine.
But AFC came flying out of the blocks after the break, as Steve Hart scored a seven minute hat-trick, later adding a fourth of his own before Tonge wrapped up the scoring late on.
Richard Lavery made two changes to his Hinckley side that beat Coventry Copsewood last week. Lavery himself was suspended while Mitchell Tomlinson dropped to the bench, with Nick Goold and Jonathan Bukasa coming in.
Starting games slowly has been an issue for Hinckley in recent weeks, but there was none of that against Heather. AFC were the better side early on and threatened even before Tonge gave them an early lead. Josh Burniston fired just over, Luke Richards tested ‘keeper Tom McNulty for the first time and Hart saw a low effort blocked all in the first five minutes.
When the goal did come six minutes in, it was one to remember. Burniston’s cross was headed only as far as Tonge on the edge of the box, who executed a superbly controlled volley to give McNulty no chance as the ball nestled in the far corner.
As Hinckley continued to dominate, Richard Munday headed James Jepson’s free kick goalbound but saw his effort cleared off the line.
But once the game reached the ten minute mark, Heather gained more of a foothold and had their first attempt when Matt Hill’s low effort was blocked.
Hinckley knew that Cobourne, with 62 goals to his name, would be their main threat and he had his first sight of goal shortly afterwards, beating Carl O’Neill to the ball but Josh Willis’ good defending denied him an effort on goal.
Then, the same player nearly capitalised after Willis misjudged the bounce of the ball, but O’Neill kept his side ahead with a fine save.
Tom Weale then struck wide from range as Heather had their best spell of the game, but Hinckley still had chances and had another effort cleared off the line when Tonge’s clever flick from Richards’ cross beat McNulty but not Michael Bloore on the line.
And that proved crucial just before the half hour mark, when Heather levelled. It was one of the easier among Cobourne’s 63 for the season, tapping home from six yards after Dave Yonwin had beaten O’Neill.
Now, you felt that Heather had the momentum in the game but they didn’t test Hinckley’s back line after that as James Williams dealt superbly with Cobourne’s threat.
Indeed, it was Hinckley who threatened more and ten minutes before half time, Hart stood a cross up to the penalty spot where Tonge headed over.
Both sides were forced into a change late in the half, but Heather’s proved crucial for the game. Captain Weale was forced off through injury, which meant Hinckley gained greater control in the middle of the park and the supply to Cobourne was cut.
Hinckley should have gone into the break ahead, but Richards nodded a free header wide from six yards as he met Jepson’s superb delivery.
It didn’t matter, though, that the chance was spurned. AFC came flying out of the blocks after half time and McNulty had to be alert less than a minute into the half to deny Hart’s powerful strike.
But the ‘keeper couldn’t do anything about Hart’s next effort a minute later. A loose ball fell his way on the right hand edge of the box, and the striker lashed it first time into the top corner giving the ‘keeper no chance.
The same player then scored his second in as many minutes when Richards’ bustling run took him through on goal. McNulty denied his effort, but the rebound fell to Hart who stroked home to extend Hinckley’s lead.
Jepson then fired over from 25 yards before Hart’s curler was deflected wide as Hinckley looked to kill the game.
And they did just that shortly afterwards when Hart netted his third goal in seven minutes. Tonge’s pinpoint cross fell his way at the far post, and the striker shifted onto his right foot before slotting home to make it 4-1.
Heather were shellshocked by Hinckley’s rapid start to the second half, and never looked like erasing the deficit. O’Neill was out quickly to deny Yonwin, but it was Hinckley who still had the better chances and midway through the half Hart set up Richards to volley wide from six yards.
Cobourne sliced wide in a rare Heather attack but Hinckley were playing some neat football and added a fifth with 12 minutes to play. Hart latched onto Richards’ flick on in the right channel and cut inside, beating two defenders before coolly slotting home.
As Heather sought a late consolation, Michael Wright bent one narrowly wide and Cobourne forced a strong close range save from O’Neill.
But, deservedly, Hinckley had the last laugh and it was another fine solo effort from Tonge that capped off the performance. The winger ran at the defence before knocking it past his man, outpacing the defence and calmly sliding home his second of the day.
It rounded off a comprehensive win for Hinckley against a side who started the day just below them in the table, and moved Lavery’s side up to fourth in the table.
Heather: Tom McNulty, Matt Hill (Sam Watts 57), Michael Bloore, Joe McNulty, Blaine Wakeman, Rudy Misambo, Ryan Pace, Tom Weale (Fraser Doyle 45), Dave Yonwin (Michael Wright 65), Ben Minshull, Simeon Cobourne. Subs not used: Ben Allsop, Kyle Bache
Goal: Simeon Cobourne (28)
Hinckley: Carl O’Neill, James Williams, Jonathan Bukasa (Jack Sutherland 41), James Jepson, Richard Munday, Josh Willis, Kai Tonge, Josh Burniston, Luke Richards (Mitchell Tomlinson 78), Steve Hart, Nick Goold
Goals: Kai Tonge (6, 90), Steve Hart (47, 48, 54, 78)