Chandler Pegg marked his arrival from Lichfield with a late goal that earned Hinckley progress in the FA Vase at the expense of ten man Stafford Town.
It wasn’t a tie to set the pulses racing as the sides largely cancelled each other out, but the dismissal of Rhys Bailey on the hour left Hinckley with a man advantage that they eventually made count.
During a quiet opening, the sides traded early chances. Pegg got in behind the visiting defence and forced a good save from Rhys Williams before Brandon Bache clutched Callum White’s header at full stretch.
As half time beckoned, the game became scrappy and occasionally fractious before AFC wasted a great chance to go in front. Pegg was fouled in the box, but Luke Wilson’s penalty was too close to Williams who dived to his right to save.
Visiting keeper Williams had a good game, early in the second half he raced off his line to block from Pegg as he bore down on goal before Stafford were reduced to ten men. Bailey’s late lunge on Jack Edwards in front of the main stand brought him a red card.
Soon after, Williams made an excellent save, tipping over Harry Walker-Donovan’s shot that was destined for the top corner.
But the visitors re-grouped and defended deep, frustrating Hinckley who couldn’t break them down. And that defensive solidity almost paid off at the other end, they almost went in front when Declan Arber struck the base of a post after working himself an opening.
The tie seemed destined to be heading for a penalty shoot-out until AFC struck with four minutes remaining. It was a well-worked goal, Lewis Rankin switched play with a wonderful cross field pass to find Marley Sweenie-Rowe on the left flank, and he delivered an inviting cross that Pegg met, guiding his header back across goal and inside the far post.
Stafford had one late chance when they had a free kick 20 yards out, but it came to nothing and Hinckley go through to the First Round Proper for the first time in four years.
Hinckley: Brandon Bache, Harry Walker-Donovan, Marley Sweenie-Rowe, Ben Newport, Luke Wilson, Joe McNulty, Lewis Rankin, Lewis Collins (James Reid 65), Chandler Pegg, Jack Edwards (Lewis Padmore 72), Isa Abraham (Adam Barber 55). Subs not used: Jack Beasley, Ethan Baynham, Ryan Murphy, Emile Beckford.
Stafford: Rhys Williams, Taylor Draper, Jake Cartwright, Dan Kelly (Remay Porter 79), Matt Dudley, Charlie Swingwood (Rhys Bailey 43), Nathan Scott, Callum White, Declan Arber, Josh Wilson (Jack Stafford 63), Ryan Taylor. Subs not used: Ben Wood, Dom Heath