Hinckley AFC survived a second half resurgence from Stafford Town to win their first league game of 2017-18 at Evans Park.
A first half brace from George Bowerman was at the heart of AFC’s triumph, and alongside Isaac Cooper’s goal put Hinckley 3-0 up at the break.
But if Hinckley thought they were comfortable, Stafford had other ideas. Jasper Johns and Dave Wilcock reduced their deficit to just one goal and made Hinckley nervous until Jake Healy secured the win late on.
In the absence of Carl Abbott, Paul Tomlinson and Francino Francis took charge of the side and made two changes to the team that beat Worksop Town last week – Richard Munday and Sam Agar making their first starts of the season.
And for the opening 45 minutes, all was rosy for the visitors. The sides exchanged a couple of early chances, Ryan Bradshaw curling wide for Stafford and Bowerman going close for Hinckley, before Hinckley took control just after the quarter hour mark.
From a Sean Williams free kick, Agar’s good work created an opening and Bowerman coolly finished to break the deadlock.
And just four minutes later, the lead was doubled. Williams was involved again, striding forward down the right and crossing towards Bowerman. The striker couldn’t connect properly with the cross but the onrushing Cooper did and drove home.
With Hinckley using the 3G surface to their advantage and playing some neat football, they didn’t look like relinquishing the lead and restricted Stafford to half chances from range.
And Hinckley looked to have secured the three points just before half time. Agar’s strike was turned onto the post by home ‘keeper Josh Moreton, but it wasn’t to matter. On the stroke of half time, Bowerman’s glorious lob from 30 yards gave Moreton little chance and Hinckey went into the break three goals to the good.
But having won their opening game last week, Stafford weren’t going to lie down and pulled themselves back into the game with 20 minutes to play as Johns cut in from the left and fired home.
And five minutes later, the deficit was reduced further. Wilcock rose highest from Johns’ corner and headed home to make the travelling contingent nervous.
But any nerves were put to bed with ten minutes left. Agar broke forward and found substitute Healy, who finished low to restore Hinckley’s two goal advantage.
That seemed to calm the nerves, and late chances were few and far between as Hinckley saw out their first league win of the campaign ahead of the visit of Walsall Wood to St John’s Park on Tuesday.
Stafford: Josh Moreton, Ben Guttridge, Harry Bowers, Matt Bartlett, Dave Wilcock, Walter Vundla, Shepherd Machingauta (Taylor Allen 67), Jasper Johns, Jez Redler, Ryan Bradshaw (Jordan Dodd 82), Connor Leek (Dan Nowell 46). Subs not used: Romano Graham, Connor Grant
Goals: Jasper Johns (71), Dave Wilcock (77)
Hinckley: Haydn Whitcombe, James Williams, Alex Morris, Sean Williams (Bekir Halil 56), Dom Smith, Richard Munday, Lee Butler, Darious Darkin, Sam Agar (Mitchell Tomlinson 82), George Bowerman (Jake Healy 72), Isaac Cooper. Substitutes: Marcus Jackson, Brad Rolston
Goals: George Bowerman (16, 45), Isaac Cooper (20), Jake Healy (81)