A clinical spell of three goals in eleven minutes either side of half time condemned Hinckley AFC to a second consecutive defeat at Atherstone Town.
On a pitch that cut up from the start, Hinckley were on the front foot for large spells of the first half, but football is a game of taking chances and while Hinckley didn’t convert theirs into goals, Atherstone’s only shot of the opening 45 minutes sent them into the break ahead.
And The Adders had secured all three points by five minutes into the second half, as defensive errors gifted goals to Alex Naughton and Aden Moore.
Hinckley made two changes to the side that were beaten by Bromsgrove Sporting last week, with Andy Westwood returning in midfield and Jake Woolley being handed a debut up front.
The opening ten minutes were cagey as both sides grew into the game, but it was Hinckley who had the first real sight of goal. Ryan Seal was sent through on goal and tried to round Tom McNulty, but the home ‘keeper got a hand to the ball and diverted it away.
Then, Woolley drove towards goal and fed Seal, who in turn found Sean Williams on the right. The former Bromsgrove winger drilled a powerful effort towards the near post, where McNulty pushed it around the post.
As Atherstone continued to disrupt Hinckley’s football, Carl Abbott’s side weren’t their usual fluent selves as a result but still created chances. Williams sliced wide from the edge of the box, before Woolley’s 25 yard free kick was tipped over.
Hinckley had to get a goal while they were on top, and they came closer still ten minutes before half time. Fantastic football led to Jamal Clarke flicking on for central defensive partner Ryan Paddock, who turned and shot in one movement, only to see his effort crash off the underside of the bar and out.
And the home side made Hinckley pay for their missed chances six minutes before the break. Lee Butler attempted to find James Williams on the overlap but only succeded in giving the ball away to Ashley Gray. Atherstone broke forward at pace, and Gray’s cross found the unmarked Moore at the far post, who drilled home.
It gave the home side a slender advantage at half time, but Hinckley would have been confident of pulling themselves level kicking down the slope after the interval.
As it turned out, Carl Abbott’s team talk would have gone straight out of the window three minutes after the break when Atherstone doubled their lead. From a corner, Clarke’s header out had more height than distance, Scott Goodby returned the ball goalbound and Naughton applied the finishing touch from six yards.
And Hinckley’s task was made even more difficult two minutes later. Again it was a problem of their own making as they lost possession in the corner, allowing Naughton to stride into the box and square for Moore to convert a simple chance from twelve yards.
Hinckley made a double substitution shortly afterwards in an attempt to find the goal that would make the home side nervous, but the next chance fell Atherstone’s way as Naughton’s mazy run ended with him drilling into the side netting.
For Hinckley, Butler did well to get to the byline but saw his pull back frantically cleared after a mini scramble, before James Williams blazed over from a corner which The Adders failed to deal with.
The same played then had a sight of goal but saw his shot deflected harmlessly into McNulty’s arms.
As the game entered stoppage time, Whitcombe had to make his first save of the afternoon to prevent further misery for AFC, a fine save denying Liam Bailey a fourth goal.
AFC will have to pick themselves up quickly ahead of next week’s Buildbase FA Vase last 16 tie against Buckland Athletic at St John’s Park.
Atherstone: Tom McNulty, Danny Harris, Ashley Gray, Scott Goodby, Ashley Wilks, Kurtis Mewies, Liam Bailey, Kyle Baxter, Alex Naughton (David Boal 88), Alan Miller (Louie O’Connor 76), Aden Moore (Aaron O’Neil 52). Subs not used: Jamie Abbott, Christian Mullings
Goals: Aden Moore (39, 50), Alex Naughton (48)
Hinckley: Haydn Whitcombe, James Williams, Lee Thomas, Ryan Paddock, Jamal Clarke, Andy Westwood, Lee Butler (JJ Melligan 76), Ryan Seal (Peter Williams 52), Javia Roberts (Sam Agar 52), Jake Woolley, Sean Williams. Subs not used: Jacob Sturgess, Kristian Ramsey-Dickson