Brandon Bache emerged as the Hinckley hero on his 50th appearance for the club as AFC edged through to the next round of the FA Vase on penalties.
The young keeper capped another assured display with the only save of the 14 spot kicks taken in the shoot-out to ensure his side made progress to the delight of a noisy Hinckley following.
For so long, it looked like Hinckley would make progress without the drama of penalties. They led through Lewis Rankin’s goal just before the break but deep into time added on, the home side levelled with an own goal from the unlucky Danny Fraser.
And with no extra time, a penalty shoot-out determined who would make progress. After twelve successful spot kicks, Bache saved from the unfortunate Kieron Lazenby, who’d posed a threat all afternoon, leaving Sam Walton to keep his nerve and send Hinckley through.
The dramatic finale brought to life a low key tie that never really got going. Despite a perfect playing surface, the first half was especially cagey with little in the way of goalmouth activity before Hinckley went in front five minutes before half time. Rankin seized on a poor back pass to intercept and roll the ball beyond the stranded Aaron Woolrich in the home goal.
The second half was a more open affair as Eccleshall sought to get back into the game and Bache made a couple of vital saves, keeping out Kyle Diskin’s long range free kick at the foot of his post before Lazenby seemed certain to score as he raced clear of the defence but Bache produced a superb fingertip save to divert the ball for a corner.
Hinckley came close to giving themselves some breathing space in the final quarter of the game as a burst from the returning Isa Abraham set up chances for Mitch Piggon and Matt Dawson, who saw goalbound efforts well blocked by the home defence.
It looked as though AFC had just done enough but two minutes into time added on, Eccleshall levelled with an unfortunate goal from Hinckley’s point of view. There seemed little danger as Fraser headed a routine ball back towards Bache, but the keeper lost his footing and the ball rolled agonisingly over the line to send the tie to penalties.
But Hinckley recovered from that late setback and regained their composure for the shoot-out to earn themselves a home tie against Bewdley Town in the next round.
Eccleshall: Aaron Woolrich, Jordan Benton (Liam Tomlin 89), George Woodroffe (Max Reine 61), Blake Robinson, Jordan Flattley, Mark Groom, Luke Lewis (Ryan Jay Malbon 58), Kyle Diskin, Nicholas Wellecomme, Kieron Lazenby. Subs not used: Thomas Evans, Alexion Southwick-Williams, Jack Jeys.
Goal: Danny Fraser (92, OG)
Hinckley: Brandon Bache, Matt Dawson, Tom Armitage (Josh Clarke 65), Josh Clews, Calum Flanagan, Sam Walton, Danny Fraser, Lewis Rankin, Mitch Piggon (Joe McNulty 83), Jack Edwards, Isa Abraham. Subs not used Jack Kennedy, Kyle Barrows, Courtney Belford.
Goal: Lewis Rankin (40)