Hinckley AFC made it four wins on the bounce as they waved goodbye to 2016 with three points in a 3-1 win over landlords Heather St John’s.
In a game where Hinckley didn’t truly hit their stride, only James Williams’ third goal in four games separated the sides at the break.
But Hinckley added further goals after the break through Lee Butler’s fine 25 yard free kick and Javia Roberts’ contrastingly scrappy effort, before ten man Heather grabbed a consolation through Mitchell Woodbine.
Hinckley made two changes to the side that beat Leicester Road on Boxing Day, with Lee Thomas and Darious Darkin returning in place of Jack Farmer and Andy Westwood.
The game was by no means a classic on a pitch that became heavy, but it was Hinckley who came closest early on as Paul Sullivan’s 30 yard free kick clipped the bar.
But chances were few and far between, and neither side had a true sight of goal in the game’s first quarter. The only time either keeper was called into action in that time was when Haydn Whitcombe was comfortable in dealing with Luke Pinnock’s long ranger curler.
That was until Hinckley took the lead on 24 minutes. A left wing corner was taken short, and Butler whipped in a cross which Mark Williams flicked on. A brief scramble ensued before James Williams swung a left boot to convert from six yards.
And on the half hour, Hinckley had the chance to double their lead from the spot. Butler played a free kick into the right channel where Sullivan’s expert hold up play drew a foul from Jordan Burrows. Ryan Seal stepped up but saw his effort saved by Ben Allsop in the home goal.
Then, Sullivan was fed through on the left channel but was denied by the onrushing Allsop. It was to be the former Chasetown man’s last action as he was injured in the incident and replaced at half time.
Whitcombe was rarely called into action before the break, but had to be alert shortly after it. Heather broke forward at pace through Shane Smith, who pulled back for Eddie Wilson, only for the home captain to see his low shot superbly saved.
And Hinckley were grateful for that save when they doubled their lead shortly before the hour mark. Butler stood over a free kick 25 yards out and curled it expertly into the top corner to give Allsop no chance.
As Hinckley looked to secure all three points, substitute Luke Richards saw a sweetly struck volley fly wide, while at the other end, Ryan Nesbitt sliced comfortably wide on the break for Heather.
And the home side’s task was made even more difficult with a quarter of an hour remaining, when Callum Rudd handled Seal’s through ball and saw a second booking as he headed for an early shower.
Butler curled the resulting free kick wide, but the win was secured not long after. Seal stood a cross up to the far post, where James Williams headed goalwards and Roberts caught his shot far from cleanly but sliced over the line from barely a yard out.
Two minutes later, Heather gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Woodbine neatly found the bottom corner from the edge of the box, but the Hinckley backline didn’t give them another sight of goal as AFC held out for the win.
It was a three points that means Hinckley move up to third on the league, and are now just two points behind top of the table Bromsgrove Sporting.
Heather: Ben Allsop, Jordan Burrows, Jordan Taylor, Kieran Fitzgerald (Ryan Rutland-Jones 81), Luke Wright, Callum Rudd, Toumani Sidibe (Jason Hewitt 57), Luke Pinnock (Mitchell Woodbine 68), Ryan Nesbitt, Eddie Wilson, Shane Smith. Subs not used: Sean Ellis, Michael Turner
Goal: Mitchell Woodbine (81)
Hinckley: Haydn Whitcombe, James Williams, Lee Thomas, Mark Williams, Jamal Clarke, Peter Williams (Jacob Sturgess 81), Lee Butler, Ryan Seal, Javia Roberts, Paul Sullivan (Luke Richards 46), Darious Darkin (Tom McCrystal 75)
Goals: James Williams (24), Lee Butler (59), Javia Roberts (79)