Hinckley AFC 1-2 Lichfield City

Former Hinckley striker Matt Gardner scored twice to condemn AFC to a second league defeat of the season, losing 2-1 to Lichfield City.

The Lichfield frontman scored at either end of the first half to give his side a slender lead at the break, netting either side of former Hinckley teammate Isaac Cooper’s leveller.

And though AFC had more of the ball in the second half, their only chance of note was when Adam Jenkins saved Chris Lloyd’s late penalty and they couldn’t force an equaliser.

Kicking down the hill, the visitors started the brighter and just nine minutes had passed when Max Black found space down the left and crossed into the box, where Gardner ghosted between full back and centre half to head into the far corner.

The same player then struck wide from the edge of the box before he had the ball in the net again after an incisive move, but was comfortably offside when he tapped Kyle Patterson’s pass in on the line.

But then Hinckley started to assert themselves on the game more, and Luke Richards scuffed wide after Jenkins’ loose throw out, before the same player was involved in Hinckley’s equaliser midway through the half.

Ben Ashby’s neat pass found him, and his burst into the box was ended by a trip by Josh Mansell. Richards, forced off the pitch because he needed treatment from the tackle, couldn’t take the penalty so Cooper stepped up and slammed a fine spot kick into the bottom corner.

Chances were few and far between for the rest of the half – Mark Williams’ neat turn and shot was comfortably saved by Jenkins in the closest either side came for the next 20 minutes.

But then the clinical Gardner, the league’s leading scorer in the early stages, bagged his second in similar fashion to his first – Lichfield getting space down the left to cross and this time it was Patterson who fizzed a ball across for Gardner to head home.

Hinckley came close to an equaliser when debutant Michael Gyasi flicked a corner goalbound and Jamie Elkes cleared off the line.

Hinckley made a double change at the break, bringing on Lloyd up front and the impressive Reece Giles in midfield.

And they looked better for it but were missing a creative spark in midfield as Lichfield looked comfortable sitting on their lead for large spells.

They threatened when Luke Wright headed Patterson’s free kick into the side netting, before Black and Gardner had half chances which didn’t threaten.

At the other end, Richards’ ambitious header was comfortably held before AFC’s big chance came with eight minutes remaining.

From Cooper’s throw, Oli Bradshaw and Mansell contested for a bouncing ball and the Lichfield right back conceded his second penalty of the game. Lloyd, already having scored three from the spot this season, stepped up but Jenkins’ outstretched palm pushed it away.

It was a fine save but assistant referee Josh Boyd failed to spot how far off his line he was by the time the kick was taken, and failed to order a re-take.

That was Hinckley’s best and final chance of the game, as Lichfield saw out the remaining minutes to claim their fourth straight win.

Hinckley: Matt Hill, Callum Witherington, Isaac Cooper, Mark Williams (Dan Hoskins 62), Oli Bradshaw, Luke Edwards, Tyler Savage (Reece Giles 46), Michael Gyasi (Chris Lloyd 46), Ben Ashby, Luke Richards, Jack Edwards. Subs not used: Ben Kendrick, Tom Weale

Goal: Isaac Cooper (22 pen)

Lichfield: Adam Jenkins, Josh Mansell, Jordan Hunt, Jamie Elkes, Luke Wright, Max Black, Luke Childs, Kyle Patterson, Matt Gardner (Brady Middleton 75), Danny Thurstance, Ryan Brooks. Subs not used: Brad Rolston, Connor Ryan, David Boal, Junior Enongene

Goals: Matt Gardner (9, 41)

Attendance: 222

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