Hinckley AFC kicked off their long-awaited pre-season campaign with a 1-1 draw at higher level Gresley Rovers.
140 days after last taking to the pitch for a League Cup win over Ashby Ivanhoe, Courtney Belford’s side made the trip to The Moat Ground to take on a Gresley side now joint-managed by former AFC boss Carl Abbott.
Chris Lloyd gave Hinckley a second half lead which looked to be the winner, only for Keith Thomas to salvage a draw for Gresley with ten minutes to play.
The game was played behind closed doors to adhere to current FA and government guidelines, as the entire pyramid above step seven has been instructed.
But the game was played at a good tempo despite the long lay-off, lack of crowd and warm summer’s day, as both sides gave good accounts of themselves on their return.
Gresley started the brighter and came closest 13 minutes in when Ryan King’s cross-shot bounced off the post.
But Hinckley came more into the half as it progressed, and ex-AFC stopper Haydn Whitcombe was called into routine work to deny Lloyd.
King and Andy Westwood both fired good chances off target early in the second half for the hosts, but it was Hinckley who made the breakthrough midway through the half. Ky Green knocked a deep free kick back across goal, and Lloyd nipped in front of his man to convert a real poacher’s finish.
The lead lasted just under 15 minutes, as the hosts pulled level with ten to play. Lee Butler, another ex-Hinckley man, did well in the build up to allow Thomas to finish.
Despite that late setback, a draw at a higher level side represents a solid return to action for Belford’s side, whose only concern will be a thigh injury that forced George Brindley off in the first half.