Hinckley AFC recorded their seventh win in eight games with a 2-0 success over Lichfield City at St John’s Park last night.
It was a victory that lifted Carl Abbott’s side to third in the league table, and AFC were in control throughout but never converted that into chances with the visitors defending solidly.
It took until Sam Agar’s second half header to give Hinckley the lead, and after Chad Degville-Cross was sent off late on, Paul Sullivan calmed AFC’s nerves with a second in stoppage time.
Abbott made two changes to the Hinckley side that beat Rocester last week. Both centre backs from last week’s win dropped out, with full backs James Williams and Lee Thomas playing as makeshift centre halves while Javia Roberts also returned.
The opening stages were cagey with little goalmouth action for either side, and it took until Williams’ 20th minute effort to be blocked behind for a corner for a real effort on goal.
That said, Hinckley thought they had broken the deadlock shortly afterwards when Agar converted a Lee Butler cross, but he was adjudged to have fouled Lichfield ‘keeper Edward Kelly.
Approaching the half hour, Haydn Whitcombe was called into action for the first time to hold Josh Haston’s long range strike, before the visitors had penalty shouts turned down when they felt Dan Griffiths was fouled in the box.
Hinckley then had a second goal disallowed, this time Roberts the man to see an effort ruled out, as the game started to liven up.
The visitors continued to disrupt Hinckley’s usual flowing football going into the start of the second half, though AFC did still hold the upper hand. Five minutes in, Roberts jinked onto his right foot and saw his cross-shot strike the bar.
And on 56 minutes, Hinckley broke the deadlock when Agar beat his man at the near post and headed home a left wing corner.
Only then did Lichfield start to come forward more regularly, with Luke Chapman hitting a speculative free kick comfortably wide and Nick Harris forcing Whitcombe to tip one over the bar.
And with the lead only at one goal, there was always the chance the Lichfield could level in an instant – Haston’s shot on the turn being deflected behind for a corner.
Meanwhile, Hinckley sought the make their lead more comfortable and Sullivan had a double chance with five minutes to go, seeing his first effort blocked and his second saved by Kelly.
But when Degville-Cross picked up his second booking after 89 minutes, Lichfield sensed they could level and that led to a frantic last few minutes where Hinckley were thankful to Whitcombe for keeping them ahead with two sensational saves in as many minutes.
But Sullivan put paid to Lichfield’s hopes of salvaging something from the game deep into stoppage time when he turned superbly to allow himself a shot, and his strike deflected out of Kelly’s reach as Hinckley secured the points to jump up to third.
Hinckley: Haydn Whitcombe, Chad Degville-Cross, Sean Williams, James Williams, Lee Thomas, Andy Westwood, Lee Butler, Ryan Seal, Sam Agar, Javia Roberts (Tom McCrystal 84 (Leadun Dunlevy 95)), Darious Darkin (Paul Sullivan 70). Sub not used: Lewis Riley
Goals: Sam Agar (56), Paul Sullivan (97)
Lichfield: Edward Kelly, Richard Deavall, Joe Haines, Joe Clarke, Graham Ashton, Nick Harris, Luke Chapman, Ben Lund, Josh Haston (John Ashfall 93), Dan Griffiths (Jack Jones 72), Jordan Hunt. Subs not used: Smig Pawek, Matt Tolley, Dan McLeod