A trio of second-half goals saw Hinckley AFC earn a valuable three points as they overcame a dogged Heath Hayes 3-1.
After a fortnight without a game, Hinckley’s return to action was slow in a drab opening 45 minutes played for the most part in a torrential downpour,
But they improved after the break and three different goalscorers extended their winning streak to five games, Isa Abraham calming any nerves with a third in stoppage time.
Joe Conneely’s side were without a game since the win at Shawbury a fortnight ago and could have gone ahead inside two minutes when Abraham’s deep cross just evaded Joe Obi, and Chandler Pegg diverted over when well-placed.
But that was the standout of the first half from an AFC perspective – as the rain poured down at Kirkby Road and despite the game starting in the dry, after ten minutes the players could have been mistaken for just finishing a race against Adam Peaty.
As the weather worsened, Hinckley’s passing became untidy and the visitors defended well, and had the better of the limited chances. Jay May saw an effort saved by Brandon Bache before smashing a well-placed free-kick over the bar, before Nick Wellecomme’s long-range strike was beaten away by the AFC ‘keeper.
Hinckley improved after the break, though, moving the ball more crisply and accurately. While still not at their fluent best, they had most of the play and after Joe McNulty’s header ran right across the face of goal, they took the lead ten minutes into the half.
It was a well-worked goal that started with Jack Edwards winning the ball and feeding Abraham. His run got an element of luck and ended up with Obi – whose lay-off was inch perfect for Rankin to run on to and fire home a precise left-footer from the edge of the box.
Obi then volleyed over from ten yards when he might have felt he should hit the target, before the visitors levelled midway through the half. Hinckley felt harshly penalised for a foul when they would have otherwise ran through on goal, and from the resulting free-kick Heath Hayes worked it wide and put a high ball into the box which was bundled home by Wellecomme.
Undeterred, Hinckley kept pressing and, after Kieran Hart denied Abraham, restored their lead six minutes later. It wasn’t a vintage corner routine but brought about good improvisation for the goal as Rankin’s set-piece was flicked on by Edwards and then Abraham for Tom Weale to backheel home inside the six yard box.
They could have added a third – Pegg went through on goal and was denied by Hart, with Danny Fraser’s rebound cleared off the line and the referee waving away shouts for handball by last man Hughie Burrows.
With only one goal in it, Heath Hayes always believed and they thought they’d levelled as the game entered stoppage time – Wellecomme’s flick on converted on the far post by Matty O’Doherty who was flagged offside.
And AFC made the most of that narrow escape with a third with the last kick of the game – Rankin ran through on goal and drew the ‘keeper before squaring for Abraham to tap into the empty net and secure the points.
And it’s the points that matter for AFC with at least 10 more games to come in the next five weeks, starting with Tuesday’s visit to Smethwick Rangers.
Hinckley: Brandon Bache, Matt Dawson, Danny Fraser, Jack Edwards, Joe McNulty, Sam Walton, Lewis Rankin, Sam Ellis (Tom Weale 53), Chandler Pegg, Joe Obi (Harry Walker-Donovan 67), Isa Abraham. Subs not used: Adam Barber, Jack Beasley
Goals: Lewis Rankin (55), Tom Weale (71), Isa Abraham (95)
Heath Hayes: Kieran Hart, Brad Rolston, Roger Davis, Hughie Burrows, Jay Brown, Matty O’Doherty, Jay May (Sam Ball 80), Dan Sheppard, Nick Wellecomme, Liam Hallam (Connor Ryan 75), Matty Hardiman. Subs not used: Scott Cooper, Adam Robinson, Tom Faulkner
Goal: Nick Wellecomme (65)