Hinckley AFC had to settle for a point as Coventry Copsewood held on for a 1-1 draw after a controversial second half at the Welfare Ground.
Hinckley’s first game at their new home was an entertaining one throughout for the neutral, if not always for the right reasons, as the visitors snatched a point after the break.
Grant Ryan’s clever finish gave Hinckley a half time lead, but Milan Karanazvic slammed home a fine equaliser in hotly contested circumstances to grab the visitors a share of the spoils.
James Jepson made one change to his Hinckley side that drew with Stapenhill on the opening day, Frazer Mullis replacing Toby Moore.
And, kicking down the slope in the first half, the home side settled nicely into the game. Sean Kavanagh’s early half chance aside, where Adam Harrison came out bravely to deny the forward, Hinckley controlled the half and could have taken the lead even before they did.
Sam Belcher’s inch-perfect through ball for Ryan ended with the striker slicing wide on the angle, before Chris Hollist forced ‘keeper Dale O’Donnell into a routine near post save.
From the resulting corner, Tom Maddison’s fierce delivery only needed a touch which never came as Hinckley took control.
But just a minute later, Hinckley got their goal. Mahmoud Juma’s deft ball over the top looked to be running away from Ryan, but the striker got a brave touch to the ball just ahead of O’Donnell to prod his side into the lead and score the first goal at AFC’s new ground.
As Hinckley sought to extend their lead, Louis Hamilton’s through ball just escaped Belcher, Ryan shot wide on the turn and the same player then found himself a pocket of space from which to curl an effort straight at O’Donnell.
For Copsewood, Kavanagh scuffed wide from the right channel on a break forward for the visitors, but Hinckley resumed their control of the chances when a good move ended with Chris Hollist pulling back for Hamilton, who headed over.
Towards the end of the half, Copsewood came more into the game and their best move of the match came ten minutes before the break. After playing their way out neatly from defence, the visitors fed Ashley Piper to cut in from the left but his effort was comfortable for Harrison.
Six minutes before the break, Hinckley felt they should have been 2-0 up. Another fine set piece from Maddison caused problems as O’Donnell dropped the ball straight into the path of Ryan, who thought he’d fired home his second only for referee Minesh Gupta to blow for a foul, much to Hinckley’s bemusement.
O’Donnell, and Copsewood as a collective, breathed a sigh of relief and, after Sully Leluu’s sweetly-struck effort didn’t test Harrison in the half’s final action, the visitors went into the break just one goal down.
With the slope and wind to their advantage, Copsewood were more of a threat in the second half and AFC were grateful to Harrison for a fine point blank save to deny Leluu after Lawrence Rawlings’ fine touch and turn did for Callum Willimont.
But for the first 20 minutes or so of the half, that was the only time Hinckley’s lead was gravely threatened.
That was until the midway point of the half, and the game’s most controversial moment. Juma battled for a 50-50 ball on halfway next to assistant Stephen King, who gave the throw in Hinckley’s way.
Copsewood reacted angrily, leading to handbags in front of the dugouts which saw Juma and Jean Dakouri both booked.
But as play re-started, Gupta allowed Copsewood to take the throw in, and they broke forward at pace allowing Karanazvic to lash home a well-struck finish from the edge of the box.
Hinckley were furious, yet even after a conversation between King and Gupta following the goal, the officials allowed the goal to stand.
With the game now level, both sides felt the points were there for the taking and exchanged good chances in the closing stages. For AFC, Maddison’s long ranger was saved, before the visitors had a chance of their own when they broke down the left and Karanazvic failed to hit the target from close range.
And in the end, it was only down to a goalline block apiece that the spoils were shared. AFC came close first, with the best move of the match seven minutes from time leading to Maddison crossing for Belcher, whose header looked destined for the net until a goalline block.
That spurred Copsewood on, and in stoppage time they themselves were denied by a fine block as Mullis flung himself in front of an effort to ensure AFC remain unbeaten after two matches going into Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup tie against Anstey Nomads.
Hinckley: Adam Harrison, Callum Willimont, Chris Hollist, James Jepson, Kieran Harrison, Frazer Mullis, Louis Hamilton (Elie Akobeto 71), Sam Belcher, Grant Ryan, Mahmoud Juma, Tom Maddison. Subs not used: Jacob Wood, Ollie Hart, Chad Timson, Craig Anderson
Goal: Grant Ryan (11)
Copsewood: Dale O’Donnell, George Whitelaw, Danny Fraser, Jack Rooney, Liam Stringer, Jean Dakouri, Sully Leluu, Lawrence Rawlings (Connor Tallett 68), Chanda Mulenga (Milan Karanazvic 46), Gabe Barnwell, Sean Kavanagh (Ashley Piper 25). Subs not used: Craig Jee, Jordan Gardiner
Goal: Milan Karanazvic (64)