An astonishing game of football ended with honours even as two sides that began the day in the top four couldn’t be separated as Hinckley AFC drew 4-4 with Cradley Town.
It was a real roller-coaster of a game, Hinckley raced into a three goal lead inside the opening ten minutes and when Tom Weale restored their three goal lead early in the second half, AFC seemed to have done enough to secure the points.
However, a spirited home team fought their way back into the game, a comeback confirmed by a controversial late penalty, and far from seeing the game as two points dropped, in the end Hinckley were grateful to come away with a point.
That late drama seemed a long way off in the early stages as Hinckley raced out of the traps. Inside two minutes, home keeper Nana Frimpong took a poor touch outside his area, Brady Middleton pounced and kept his composure to find the gaping goal from 30 yards.
Moments later it was two, a wonderful low cross from Tom Armitage took out the home defence for Weale to convert from close range, and the cheers had hardy died down when Ky Green made it three, driving home a loose ball from Lewis Rankin’s corner.
A shell-shocked home side pulled one back midway through the half, a deep free kick was headed back across goal for Lucas Edmonds to score despite the best efforts of Zaki Evans on the line.
But the half ended with Hinckley on top as Frimpong atoned for his earlier error tipping over Rankin’s 30 yard effort before saving well from Weale’s low free kick.
Cradley made a triple substitution at the break, but it was Hinckley who restored their three goal advantage ten minutes in when Weale converted a spot kick after Armitage was fouled in the box.
To their credit, Cradley refused to throw in the towel, launching a series of attacks and after Brandon Bache tipped over Cameron Milne’s long range shot, they got their reward when Darren Whitley headed home the resulting corner.
The goal gave Town fresh impetus, and two minutes later they pulled back another through Jordan Crump and they laid siege on the Hinckley goal as they sought an equaliser.
Cradley struck a post and then Bache was at full stretch to keep out Elliott Palmer’s shot before the major talking point of the game three minutes from time. Referee Nicholas Grey decided Bache had fouled Palmer, visiting protestations came to nothing and Brad Ward kept his composure the level the game up from the spot.
There were an additional seven minutes of time added on and half chances fell at either end but neither side could find a winner at the end of an incredible game that was a credit to the players of both sides.
Cradley: Nana Frimpong, Harry Edwards, Declan Bibb, Daniel Harvey (Jake Crackett 46), Daniel Hadley, Darren Whitley, Lucas Edmonds (Elliott Palmer 46), Jamie Underhill (Cameron Milne 70), Thomas Cole (Jordan Crump 46), Brad Ward, Joshua Marsden. Sub not used: Kyle Field.
Goals: Lucas Edmonds (24), Darren Whitley (76), Jordan Crump (78), Brad Ward (87 pen).
Hinckley: Brandon Bache, Jack Beasley, Tom Armitage, Declan Somel, Ky Green, Sam Walton, Lewis Rankin (Sonny Sheasby 75), Tom Weale, Brady Middleton, Zaki Evans, Danny Fraser. Subs not used: Jack Edwards, Shay Durkan, Harry Walker-Donovan.
Goals: Brady Middleton (2), Tom Weale (6, 55 pen), Ky Green (10).