Second half goals from Andy Westwood and Luke Richards gave Hinckley AFC their seventh league win in eight with a 2-0 triumph over Leicester Road at St John’s Park.
The game was watched by a bumper Boxing Day crowd of 348 – a new club high for AFC – and they saw a hard fought encounter throughout, even though there was little goalmouth action in the first half.
But Hinckley stepped up a gear after the break and had the better of the second half, taking the lead through Westwood’s 20 yarder before Richards slotted home late on to ensure the vast majority of the crowd had a joyful journey back down the A447.
Carl Abbott made four changes to his Hinckley side that beat Boldmere St Michaels on Tuesday – with Jack Farmer, Jamal Clarke, Peter Williams and Lee Butler all returning.
But in truth, it was a first half where both sides were tentative. Neither wanted to give away the opening goal, with Hinckley seeing much of the ball but Leicester Road shading the chances.
And it was the visitors who had the first sight of goal less than a minute in. Matt Stenson got to the byline and crossed to the far post, where Greg Downes’ poor header ensured Haydn Whitcombe was untroubled.
It took until the 20th minute for either side to have a shot on target, and it fell Hinckley’s way when Ryan Seal cut inside but scuffed his left foot shot and Will Highland comfortably saved.
At the other end, Leicester Road came closest to breaking the deadlock through Tom McGlinchey as his header bounced off the post.
But after that, Hinckley started to gain the ascendancy and Javia Roberts should have gone for goal after being sent through, but opted to square to Seal and the chance had gone.
Then, Paul Sullivan – a thorn in the visitors’ side throughout – turned neatly 30 yards out and struck a powerful effort which Highland fumbled wide.
And although the sides exchanged jabs, neither could make defining inroads upon the other in the opening 45 minutes.
But while the first half was even for the most part, the second saw Hinckley have much the better of the play and after Jamal Clarke was denied by Highland’s fine close range save, they took the lead ten minutes into the half.
Sullivan was involved again, as he got to the byline and stood up a cross which Callum Earls could only head as far as the edge of the box. There, Westwood allowed the ball to bounce before firing through a crowd and into the corner to give his side the ascendancy.
As Hinckley looked to double their lead, Highland had to make another good save to deny Seal, who found half a yard in the box and drilled a low shot which looked to be destined for the bottom corner until the keeper’s outstretched leg diverted it wide.
But Leicester Road weren’t going to give up top spot easily, and Whitcombe had to make his first saves of note midway through the half, parrying over Jake Holt’s wide free kick before making a diving save from Stenson’s well struck snapshot.
As the visitors sought an equaliser, the only chance they had late on was when Daryl Thomas found space in the box but weakly headed straight at Whitcombe, and Hinckley made them pay by securing all three points with three minutes to play.
Seal’s ball over the top was missed by Josh Smith, and Richards took full advantage by racing in behind and coolly slotting home to the delight of Hinckley’s players and fans alike.
After that, Whitcombe was untroubled and Hinckley comfortably held on for their fourth straight win over their rivals.
Hinckley: Haydn Whitcombe, Jack Farmer (JJ Melligan 46), James Williams, Mark Williams, Jamal Clarke, Andy Westwood, Lee Butler, Ryan Seal, Javia Roberts (Luke Richards 75), Paul Sullivan, Peter Williams (Darious Darkin 60). Subs not used: Jacob Sturgess, Tom McCrystal
Goals: Andy Westwood (55), Luke Richards (87)
Leicester Road: Will Highland, Josh Unsworth, Theo Brown, Jake Holt (Sam Munton 69), Josh Smith, Callum Earls, Greg Downes, Joe Lyne, Matt Stenson, Tom McGlinchey (Amarvir Sandhu 77), Lamar Parkes (Daryl Thomas 53). Subs not used: Jack Harrison, Ricky Blewitt