Hinckley AFC 3-1 Cadbury Athletic
Matt Gardner was Hinckley AFC’s hat-trick hero as they recorded a 3-1 win over Cadbury Athletic at St John’s Park.
On only his second start for the club, he scored a first half brace, including a penalty won by Luke Richards, and a third to secure the win midway through the second half after Cadbury had grabbed themselves a lifeline through Ryan Gittings.
Hinckley made two changes to the side that suffered a last minute defeat against Bolehall Swifts on Tuesday, both in the back line. Mitchell Tomlinson came in for the injured Bekir Halil, while Dominic Smith was replaced by Jordan Rushton for his Hinckley debut.
The opening stages were quiet, but Hinckley broke the deadlock after eleven minutes. Justin Nisbett’s clever flick found Robbie Millington, who got to the byline and stood up a pinpoint cross. Gardner was in the right place at the right time to head home from close range.
Hinckley were forced into a change midway through the first half, injured skipper JJ Melligan being replaced by former Leeds United midfielder Simon Johnson, on debut.
Cadbury had a chance to equalise on the half hour, but after beating the offside trap Stuart Butcher blazed over.
Nisbett should have doubled Hinckley’s lead three minutes later, but after Gardner’s good hold up play, he failed to connect with Millington’s scuffed shot with the goal gaping.
But three minutes later Hinckley’s lead was doubled. Richards’ powerful run from inside his own half ended when he was felled in the area. Gardner stepped up and converted from the spot, sending Kenny Sanders the wrong way.
In first half stoppage time, Sanders prevented a third, getting a strong hand behind Richards’ right footed snap shot from the edge of the box.
Hinckley would have been wary of a second half comeback from the visitors after their experience on Tuesday night, and their nerves would have been tested when Cadbury halved the deficit after 51 minutes.
Butcher met a deep cross, and his header back across goal caused confusion in the Hinckley back line, allowing Gittings to tap home from barely a yard out.
But Hinckley continued to be positive, and after Richards dragged a shot past the far post, Gardner bagged the match ball just after the hour mark.
Tomlinson’s anticipation saw him beat Ben Mooney to the ball, and he whipped in a delightful cross that Gardner converted with a looping header despite Cadbury’s appeals for offside.
Gardner could have added a fourth with fifteen minutes remaining, but his attempted chip was comfortably saved.
Dean Lea scored twice in the reverse fixture to condemn Hinckley to defeat back in August, but when he got in behind the Hinckley defence late on his weak shot was easily saved by Sam Arnold.
And it was Hinckley who finished the stronger, Richards having a hat-trick of late chances to add to the scoreline.
Despite not being able to take any of them, Hinckley recorded a valuable three points as they take another break from league action on Tuesday at Alvechurch in the JW Hunt Cup, before a trip to local rivals Atherstone Town next week.
Hinckley: Sam Arnold, Mitchell Tomlinson, Isaac Cooper, Jordan Rushton, Alex Morris, Avun Jephcott, JJ Melligan (Simon Johnson 24), Robbie Millington, Matt Gardner (Tyrone Clarke-O’Connell 80), Justin Nisbett (Dominic Oliver 72), Luke Richards. Subs not used: Asa Wright, James Bennett-Tindall.
Goals: Matt Gardner (11. 38 pen, 62)
Cadbury: Kenny Sanders, Ryan Spink (Joe Busst 78), Brett Lloyd, Kevin Heeley, Stuart Cooke, James McKeon, Ryan Gittings (Thomas Brain 72), Andrew Cooper, Stuart Butcher, Dean Lea, Ben Mooney. Subs not used: Olievr Burgess, Ben Kirby, Daniel Leach.
Goal: Ryan Gittings (51)