League leaders Dudley Town completed a classic backs-to-the-wall away win as they scored two second-half goals to beat Hinckley.
In front of a season-high crowd of 285 at Kirkby Road, Tom Weale’s missed penalty early on proved crucial as Dudley rode out a dominant first half from the hosts to go into the break at 0-0.
And they scored two goals after the break from set-pieces to extend their advantage over third-placed Hinckley to 11 points and stay top of the league.
On an afternoon of sunshine and showers, Hinckley started much the brighter and Chandler Pegg had the game’s first sight of goal when he volleyed over in space.
He had another ten minutes later, but was flattened by Joe Gilbert when attempting to round the Dudley ‘keeper in the box. Weale has been the exception to Hinckley’s misfiring penalty record this season, but missed from the spot for the first time as his kick struck the inside of the post and bounced away.
To Hinckley’s credit, that didn’t deter them and they continued to dominate. Jack Edwards’ strike from Pegg’s pullback was blocked by the flying Ash Smith, Gilbert saved from Weale and Lewis Collins and Pegg was inches away from converting crosses from both Danny Fraser and Matt Dawson.
Alec Hill stood firm to deny Dan Danks in a rare Dudley attack, before Isa Abraham twice went close for Hinckley in the half’s closing moments. He cut in past three defenders and bent one just wide before hitting the post on the angle with the final chance of the half.
But title winning sides often ride out pressure and find ways to win, and Dudley’s second half display showed their credentials. Their manager Matt Lovatt made a half-time change, putting right-back Connor Archer up front, and they looked much more comfortable for it.
And just four minutes after the break, they hit Hinckley with a sucker punch as Rhys Boswell’s right-wing corner flew straight in at the near post.
They managed the game well after that and Hinckley’s chances were much more limited. Sam Walton had arguably the best when he headed over Weale’s corner from close range, and Dawson dragged wide of the near post.
Hinckley couldn’t find the same level of threat once they were behind and Dudley, led by Smith who barely missed a header all day, found a way to win.
It got even better for them late on with a simple goal as Archer’s header from Jamie Bedall’s free-kick trickled inside the far post.
And three points for the visitors mean they go 11 clear of Hinckley in third to bolster their title hopes.
Hinckley: Alec Hill, Matt Dawson, Danny Fraser, Jack Edwards (Lewis Rankin 61), Joe McNulty (Ryan Slinn 85), Sam Walton, Harry Walker-Donovan (Josh Clews 74), Tom Weale, Chandler Pegg, Lewis Collins, Isa Abraham. Subs not used: Jack Beasley, Ben Newport.
Dudley: Joe Gilbert, Connor Archer, Rhys Boswell, Ash Smith, Jamie Bedall, Alex Perry, Harry Crook, Todd Sherwood, Kyle Montague, Owen Massey, Dan Danks. Subs not used: Joe Colley, Dan Jones, Joe Scriven, Lewis Mitchell, Connor Armstrong.