Luke Richards’ brace helped Hinckley AFC reach the third round of the League Cup with a 3-2 win over Leicestershire rivals Ashby Ivanhoe.
AFC had to come from behind in the second round tie that was 172 days in the making, as Ashby started and finished the scoring.
But Mitch Piggon’s debut goal, the forward on dual registration from Bedworth United, and Richards’ two second half goals put Hinckley through despite Sam Grouse’s late strike making things tense.
Courtney Belford changes things up for his Hinckley side with Piggon starting up front and Elliott Taylor returning in goal among six changes from last week’s draw with Kirby Muxloe.
Belford said he expected more fluency from his side after last week’s stalemate at Kirby Muxloe, and he got it. His side had more of the game, especially down their right early on, but Ashby were always a threat on the break.
And it was the visitors who threatened first when they countered and former Hinckley man Jordan Wilson switched to Liam Donaghy, who struck the post.
Hinckley went close themselves through Richards and Piggon, who both shot off target, before Ryan Ball did likewise after Richards’ good work down the left.
It looked like Hinckley were starting to gain control, but as they did that Ashby made the breakthrough. Taylor couldn’t hold Donaghy’s cross, and Ross McGarry lashed home the loose ball to put the visitors ahead.
Wilson then put a header over, before Hinckley levelled nine minutes before half time. Ky Green flicked on a throw in, and Lewis Commins being bundled over didn’t matter as the ball ran through to Piggon, who turned and precisely found the bottom corner.
They should have turned the game on its head by half time, but Commins blazed over when well-placed after good work down the right by George Brindley.
That said, it only took ten minutes after the break for Hinckley to gain control on the scoresheet. Piggon turned scorer to creator, a fine cross-field switch finding Richards who took one touch to control before burying beyond Zac Warriner.
Still, Ashby had their moments as Tom Rowell went close with a header from a free kick, or when substitute Zak Yusuf looked to be through after Wilson’s clever flick, but a magnificent recovery from Reece Giles denied him.
And Hinckley looked to have put the game to bed when Giles was fouled 25 yards out, and Richards delightfully bent the resulting free kick into the top corner to make it 3-1.
Had McGarry scored two minutes later instead of somehow missing an open target from six yards after Grouse got to the byline, it could have been a much more nervy last ten minutes for Hinckley.
As it was, they carried that 3-1 lead into stoppage time and could have had more were it not for Warriner denying Piggon and Brady Middleton.
But when Grouse jinked his way through and slid one home three minutes into stoppage time, Ashby believed – and they came within inches of taking it to penalties but Giles cleared off the line after AFC didn’t deal with a long throw.
It means Hinckley are now four unbeaten at home and face a trip to Brocton as their third round reward.
Hinckley: Elliott Taylor, George Brindley, Mikkel Hirst, Ryan Ball, Ky Green (Reece Giles 51), Ben Kendrick, Lewis Commins (Brady Middleton 68), Mark Williams, Mitchell Piggon, Luke Richards (Owen Wassall 80), Mitch Thomson. Subs not used: Gabe Webster, Zack Stretton
Goals: Piggon (36), Richards (55, 76)
Ashby: Zac Warriner, Jake Conkay, Harry Stewart (Angus Blair-Park 85), Tom Rowell, Joe Neal, Jack Robinson (Zak Yusuf 61), Ross McGarry, Jack Samples (James Grouse 85), Jordan Wilson, Sam Grouse, Liam Donaghy. Subs not used: Andy Hurley, Macualay Holmes
Goals: McGarry (13), Sam Grouse (93)