Stafford Town 2-3 Hinckley AFC
Three goals in thirteen second half minutes gave Hinckley AFC a 3-2 win over bottom of the table Stafford Town at Evans Park.
AFC were by no means at their best, but they ground out the three points despite being a goal down at half time through Spencer Gunnell.
Marco Adaggio’s first goal in two months pulled Hinckley level, and JJ Melligan’s first since returning to the club put his side ahead just four minutes later.
And though Chris Gray’s own goal made the score 2-2, Ryan Seal secured the points with an emphatic penalty.
Carl Abbott made four changes from his last league starting eleven – Darious Darkin and Rico Taylor returned to the side, while Gray started in the league for the first time and recent signing Greg Pearson made his debut.
In the first half drizzle, it was Hinckley who had the first chance: Seal’s effort from the edge of the box was gathered at the second attempt by home ‘keeper Richard Stone.
But from then on, Stafford had the better of the half and after Declan McMahon blazed over with only Tom Cross to beat, Gunnell was denied by a fingertip save by the Hinckley keeper, who tipped his attempted lob onto the post.
The opening goal came midway through the half as the league’s basement outfit took the lead. Gunnell’s header hit the underside of the crossbar, and McMahon headed the rebound back across goal, where Gunnell nodded home the simplest of goals from close range.
The closest Hinckley came all half was when Lee Thomas’ cross drifted over Stone and hit the far post, before Pearson’s thirty yard strike was well dealt with by the home ‘keeper.
At the other end, Cross was on hand to deny Gunnell’s left foot strike from eighteen yards as Stafford took their goal advantage into the interval.
The second half, however, saw Hinckley dominate, and after Alex Morris headed Marcus Jackson’s free kick wide, Seal cut inside and saw his effort saved at the near post.
And on 54 minutes, the visitors were level. Jackson was Hinckley’s standout player throughout, and after Stafford failed to deal with his right wing corner, Adaggio was on hand to convert from inside the six yard box.
Four minutes later, Hinckley had turned the game on its head. In a carbon copy of the first goal, the home side didn’t deal with Jackson’s set piece and this time it was Melligan who bundled home from close range.
Their lead lasted just three minutes, though, and Stafford were back on level terms when Gray headed Gunnell’s cross past his own keeper.
Jackson’s set pieces continued to cause Stafford problems, Morris headed the next corner wide, before the deciding goal came midway through the half. Pearson was through on goal, and was about to pull the trigger when he was felled by Tom Green. The Stafford man was sent off, and Seal emphatically dispatched the spot kick as he found the top corner.
After that, Stafford never threatened Cross’ goal, and Hinckley had numerous chances to add to their lead. Jackson blazed over from Thomas’ cut back, Adaggio saw his fierce volley well saved, and Stone denied both Adaggio and Pearson in one on one situations.
And though they couldn’t add more gloss to the scoreline, Hinckley will be delighted to get back to winning ways in the league ahead of the visit of third place Nuneaton Griff on Boxing Day.
Stafford: Richard Stone, James Cresswell, Andy Dodd, Harry Flowers, Rob Tomlinson, Tom Green, Jason Cunningham (Craig Hulme 57), Dan Nowell, Dan Jones, Spencer Gunnell (Marcus Roder 70), Declan McMahon. Subs not used: Dale Reaney, Ryan Baxter, Ben Henderson.
Goals: Spencer Gunnell (22), Chris Gray (61, OG).
Hinckley: Tom Cross, Marcus Jackson, Lee Thomas, Chris Gray, Alex Morris, Darious Darkin, JJ Melligan (Luke Pinnock 82), Ryan Seal, Greg Pearson, Marco Adaggio, Rico Taylor (Mitchell Tomlinson 46). Subs not used: Sam Arnold, Oli Basham, Trovarn Thompson.
Goals: Marco Adaggio (54), JJ Melligan (58), Ryan Seal (67 pen)