Hinckley AFC bowed out of the FA Vase for another season after a 4-1 defeat to Belper United in a tie when the final scoreline didn’t reflect the nature of the game.
Hinckley looked good going forward, creating a series of chances throughout, but were frustrated by a fine display from Curtis Hall in the home goal and when he was beaten, the woodwork denied the visitors.
At the other end, Belper were clinical with the chances they created and though Hinckley could reflect on a good attacking performance, those defensive frailties remain evident and cost them dear.
AFC played at a good tempo from the start and went in front after eight minutes with a touch of class from Lewis Rankin. A corner was recycled to him on the right hand edge of the area and the skipper opened up his body to curl a delightful left footed shot into the top corner.
He was unlucky not to add a second moments later when he struck the bar after good work from Isa Abraham.
But the hosts drew level on the quarter hour mark, as Emilio de Abreu got in behind the defence and was brought down in the area by Brandon Bache with Alex Steadman converting the penalty.
Undeterred, Hinckley continued to press forward. Rankin tried to repeat his goal but Hall saved at full stretch, before beating away a Luke Wilson free kick and in the ensuing scramble the ‘keeper flattened Chandler Pegg, but penalty appeals fell on deaf ears.
Hall then tipped over Ben Birch’s close range header from Tom Weale’s long throw before, against the run of play, Belper took the lead with a well worked goal just before half time, de Abreu’s cross from the right was neatly flicked home inside the far post by Keiron O’Connell.
That was a real blow to Hinckley’s hopes, but they responded well immediately after the break. A lovely move involving Rankin and Abraham fed Lewis Collins whose shot came back off a post.
To make matters worse, Belper added another soon after, once again de Abreu got in behind them and applied a neat finish and that left AFC with a mountain to climb.
They stuck to their task and continued on the offensive to try and find a way back into the tie, but again Hall denied them. He tipped aside Chris Camwell’s long range shot, then saving Birch’s header on the line before the major talking point of the game ten minutes from time. Rankin was taken out by a high tackle in the penalty area, players and fans on both sides knew it was a foul but referee Wood, bizarrely, didn’t agree and denied what could have been a grandstand finale.
Instead, Rankin was sinbinned for his complaints and it left rather a sour taste, especially when O’Connell grabbed his second of the afternoon in the last minute to compound a frustrating afternoon for Hinckley.
Belper: Curtis Hall, Harley Kozluk, Jake Dodds, Joshua Gregory, Marc Strzyzewski, Jacob Ferdinand, Emilio de Abreu, John Guy, Alex Steadman (Henry Adams 84), Kieron O’Connell, Ben Ollett (Ryan Baker 70). Subs not used: Lee Cranstone, James Jennison.
Goals: Alex Steadman (16 pen), Kieron O’Connell (42, 90), Emilio de Abreu (55)
Hinckley: Brandon Bache, Matt Dawson, Danny Fraser, Harry Walker-Donovan, Luke Wilson (Joe McNulty 63), Ben Birch, Lewis Rankin, Tom Weale (Fortune Sibanda 70), Chandler Pegg (Chris Camwell 60), Lewis Collins, Isa Abraham. Subs not used: Ben Newport, Adam Barber, Lewis Padmore.
Goal: Lewis Rankin (8)