Hinckley AFC slipped to back-to-back defeats as Stafford Town took all three points from the Welfare Ground in a 2-1 win.
Stafford only had three shots on target throughout, but to their credit they took their chances when they came and defended Kyle Ashman’s stunning winner excellently to ensure Hinckley didn’t threaten too much in the second half.
That came after a first half where Hinckley had enough control to put the game to bed, but only had Shane Benjamin’s equaliser, cancelling out Ed Page’s opener, to show for it.
New additions Niall Rowe and Ben Kendrick started at the back, while Elliott Taylor made a debut in goal as Courtney Belford made a number of changes from the last game.
But despite the number of changes, Hinckley started brightly and were on the front foot from the off as they moved the ball well throughout the half.
Just five minutes had passed when they twice came within inches – Ky Green’s header was hacked off the line, the rebound falling to Luke Richards who lashed one goalbound but again saw Stafford clear off the goalline.
It was a spell that summed up Hinckley’s evening of frustration.
Ryan Ball and Bekir Halil both went close from range before Stafford’s first chance fell to Ashman who shot straight at Taylor after getting in behind.
Hinckley resumed their pressure when Green went close with an overhead kick, and they were made to pay for not taking their chances when Page latched onto a flick on and buried calmly at the near post.
But their lead lasted less than four minutes. Ball was the creator, receiving from Sam Reuben before surging into the box after a clever one-two with Mitch Thomson and squaring for Benjamin to convert the simplest of tap ins for his first Hinckley goal.
As they sought to turn the game on its head, Richards had another cleared off the line when he latched onto Benjamin’s knock down as Stafford clung on by their nails to go in level at the break.
After half time, though, it was a different story. Hinckley didn’t play with the same intensity and struggled to break down Stafford’s well-organised back five – and visiting ‘keeper George Hill wasn’t called upon until the dying moments.
Benjamin headed over from Mikkel Hirst’s cross, but AFC were left chasing the game again when the visitors broke forward and restored the lead through a cracker – Ashman’s swerving drive from range which found the top corner.
In truth, Stafford rarely looked like surrendering their lead this time – Hinckley’s best chance coming when a free-kick ran through to Thomson, but he blazed over at the far post with just Hill to beat.
The ‘keeper was forced into two fine saves in the final five minutes, a point blank save after a mass of bodies attacked a set piece before a fingertip over the bar from Green’s header.
But that was as close as Hinckley came on a frustrating evening as Stafford picked up their first away win of the season.
Hinckley: Elliott Taylor, Sam Reuben (Lewis Commins 60), Niall Rowe (Gabe Webster 83), Ben Kendrick, Ky Green, Ryan Ball, Mitch Thomson, Bekir Halil (Jake Brown 70), Shane Benjamin, Luke Richards, Mikkel Hirst. Subs not used: Liam Cross, Reece Giles
Goal: Shane Benjamin (31)
Stafford: George Hill, Charlie Marshall, Sam Jessup, Owen Turner, Tom Wright, Tom Webb, Jack Milgate, Kyle Ashman (Matthew Marshall 89), Edward Page (Tom Duffy 73), Lenny Baker (Daniel Kelly 92), William Heath. Subs not used: Harry Redford, Tom Concar
Goals: Ed Page (27), Kyle Ashman (56)