Hinckley AFC’s FA Vase run is over after a 4-1 defeat to Stone Old Alleynians at a wet Kirkby Road.
In rain that was relentless throughout the 90 minutes, the miserable weather was a reflection of Hinckley’s night as they were comfortably knocked out by higher-level Stone.
The visitors scored twice in each half either side of Lewis Rankin’s free-kick that gave Hinckley hope, but it was hope quickly extinguished by the clinical visitors.
AFC started brightly enough – Sam Walton had a deflected header comfortably saved by Raajan Gill early before Declan Somel had two half-chances from the edge of the box which ballooned over the bar in identical fashion.
But their defensive frailties from set pieces cost them after 12 minutes, when a right-wing corner caused problems and Louis Anthony slammed home the loose ball.
Stone grew in confidence after that and had a sustained spell of possession as they made the most of the slick 3G pitch to move the ball around well.
Hinckley had chance to take the pressure off when they won a free kick in their own half, but Jamie Hood’s loose pass was cut out by Dan Harper, who fed Matt Thomas to run through on goal and finish.
In control, the visitors continued to have the better of the game without testing Finn Osborn but Hinckley gave themselves a lifeline five minutes before the break. Brady Middleton was fouled 25 yards out, and up stepped Rankin to bend a pinpoint free-kick into the top corner and halve the deficit.
That fine solo goal brought Hinckley back into the game at half-time, but whatever the team talk by Joe Conneely and Courtney Hunter-Belford at the break, it was made redundant 20 seconds after the restart.
It was another goal of Hinckley’s own making – from kick off, Tom Weale’s pass to a defender was cut out by Thomas who strode towards goal and unleashed a low effort which bounced awkwardly in front of Osborn, whose hand wasn’t enough to deny the striker a second of the night.
The nature, and time, of that goal deflated Hinckley’s players and fans alike and optimism that their side might find a way back into the game was quickly diminished.
Osborn saved an ambitious goalbound flick from Harper shortly after, before Hinckley had a pair of chances just before the hour mark as Hood turned over Rankin’s corner from close range, before Middleton lashed over following good work by Isa Abraham.
A goal then might have restored the optimism but Stone took the sting out of the game well and came close to a fourth when Danny Fraser headed a deflected shot off the line.
Rankin nearly provided another fine solo goal with 13 minutes to play but his 30-yarder cannoned off the inside of the post and rolled back across goal, where Fraser couldn’t divert the rebound on target from a tight angle.
And Stone wrapped up the game with a minute to play. For the third time, they scored within 10 seconds of Hinckley giving the ball away as Josh Sedgley picked out Matt Dawson’s pass and provided a pinpoint lofted through ball for Will Lloyd to run on and score.
If that didn’t sum up Hinckley’s night, spurning an open goal in stoppage time when Joe Obi lofted over the bar from close range, did – as their FA Vase run ends and attention turns to the start of the Midland League Cup defence against Sutton United on Monday.
Hinckley: Finn Osborn, Matt Dawson, Danny Fraser, Declan Somel (Harry Walker-Donovan 66), Jamie Hood, Sam Walton (Ky Green 73), Lewis Rankin, Tom Weale, Brady Middleton (Joe Obi 63), Zaki Evans, Isa Abraham. Subs not used: Jack Beasley, Shay Durkan, Tom Armitage, Adam Barber.
Goal: Lewis Rankin (40)
Stone: Raajan Gill, Joe Baxter, Ryan Goodwin, Charlie Goldstraw (Will Lloyd 59), Josh Sedgley, Louis Anthony, Sam Wilson (Jack Bowater 90), Luke Askey, Matt Thomas (Jack Tomlinson 85), Dan Harper, Will Bailey. Subs not used: Oliver Davies, Fin Knight, Giancarlo de Stefano.
Goals: Louis Anthony (12), Matt Thomas (25, 46), Will Lloyd (89)