Hinckley AFC endured a disappointing evening as their record 13-match winning sequence came to an end at Belper United.
They tasted defeat for the first time in four months, and could have no complaints. Hinckley were way short of the standard they’ve set for themselves during that winning run and Belper took full advantage with two late goals to close the gap at the top of the table.
With two of the leading promotion contenders meeting it was always going to be a competitive, occasionally feisty affair. But with space at a premium and a bobbly pitch, passing football was difficult and it was scrappy for long spells.
After a pretty even first half, Belper got on top after the break and after going behind, AFC couldn’t claw their way back as they failed to score in a league game for the first time since August.
After a quiet start, United had a great chance to take the lead when Richard Hanslow was clean through but he shot tamely at Matt Hill.
As the half developed though, home custodian Curtis Hall became the busier of the two keepers. Firstly a mishit corner reached Charlie Evans on the far post and his shot was blocked on the line by Hall who then produced the moment of the half, pushing over a superb curling effort from Isa Abraham after he cut in from the left flank.
Hinckley were forced into a defensive reshuffle early in the second half when Mikkel Hirst limped off and the home side began to get on top. They forced a series of corners without making them count whilst the closest AFC came was a long range effort from Joe Cairns that dipped just over the bar.
Just as the game appeared to be drifting towards a stalemate, Belper took the lead. Substitute Ben Ollett, who played a key role after coming on, fed Kieran O’Connell who slotted home from a tight angle.
Hinckley had ten minutes to salvage something from the game and they threw everyone forward in a attempt to force an equaliser.
But were caught by a sucker punch deep into time added on when Ollett went racing clear from halfway to beat the stranded Hill and secure the points.
Belper: Curtis Hall, Dominic Allen, Jake Dodds, Jack Tyson, Martin Smyth, John Guy, Ryan Baker, Eric Graves, Richard Hanslow, Keiran O’Connell, William Cope (Ben Ollett 62). Subs not used: Callum Thompson, Josh Gregory, Mark Stryzewski, Rob Mulonga
Hinckley: Matt Hill, Harry Sawyer, Mikkel Hirst (Luke Wilson 56), Tyson Knight (Tom Weale 46), Ben Whitehead, Ben Vallance, Lewis Rankin (Joe Cairns 67), Liam Cairns, Charlie Evans, Jack Edwards, Isa Abraham. Subs not used: Ryan Harkin, Jeremie Agholor.