Hinckley AFC 5-3 Birstall United

Hinckley AFC progressed to the quarter-finals of the Leicestershire Senior Cup as they came from behind to beat Birstall United in a thrilling cup tie at Kirkby Road.

AFC were staring at an early exit from the competition when they were 3-1 down at half time to a pacy and threatening Birstall side.

But Zaki Evans’ brace either side of the break twice kept Hinckley in contention and they took advantage of Andres Articolo’s red card for Birstall to win it with a strong second-half display.

The visitors started strongly and took the lead just four minutes in as Corey Bucalossi fed Josh Crossley to run in behind and fire home a clinical finish.

Bucalossi, Crossley and Muhammad Jaffar provided a lively Birstall attack as the visitors were content for Hinckley to have more of the ball and play quickly on the break.

And it worked for the first period – getting their second with a rapid counter attack after just 16 minutes as Crossley kept the ball in on the right flank, cut inside and finished via a deflection.

Crossley then went close to his hat-trick, lashing over the bar following a set piece, while Brady Middleton as inches away from pulling one back for Hinckley as he diverted Matt Dawson’s cross narrowly wide.

Evans saw his first goal for the club ruled out when Saturday’s match was abandoned, but there was to be no chalking it off this time as he let fly from 30 yards to beat Charlie Doherty and halve Hinckley’s deficit.

Still, though, Birstall threatened and scored a fine goal of their own to restore their two goal lead. Bucalossi had set up Crossley for the opening two goals, but this time roles were reversed as the latter’s neat lay off set up the former to smash home a first-time strike from outside the box.

Doherty then denied Evans with a smart save just before the break and it left Hinckley with a mountain to climb at half time but their determination to scale it was evident in the early stages.

They were helped, undoubtedly, by Articolo who, already on a yellow card, hauled down Danny Fraser to stop a Hinckley counter attack and was shown a second booking.

And that spurred AFC on as they scored three times in 13 minutes to turn the game on its head. Evans started the turnaround with his second of the night, turning home Matt Dawson’s shot from close range.

Doherty was at full stretch again to deny Brady Middleton shortly after, but Birstall’s respite was short as Tom Weale quickly bent a free-kick home to level the scores.

Evans, carrying a knock, was replaced by Declan Somel midway through the half and the substitute gave Hinckley the lead for the first time with his first touch, turning home fellow replacement Adam Barber’s cross.

With Hinckley pressing to put the game to bed, Doherty made a trio of smart saves to tip over from Lewis Rankin, force Middleton wide and then deny Ky Green from close range.

The frantic pace of the game continued, and now it was Birstall’s turn to force the issue as Bucalossi flashed one across the face of goal and then Reif Armstrong sliced wide from the edge of the box.

But Hinckley weathered the pressure well and sealed it in stoppage time with a fine solo goal from Rankin, who twisted and turned on a mazy run before sliding home that goal that secures Hinckley’s passage into the last eight.

Hinckley: Ryan Young, Matt Dawson, Danny Fraser, Preston Bitemo, Ky Green, Jack Beasley (Jamie Hood 84), Lewis Rankin, Tom Weale, Brady Middleton, Zaki Evans (Dec Somel 67), Jack Edwards (Adam Barber 57). Subs not used: Taylor Jones, Alex Sutton.

Goals: Zaki Evans (28, 57), Tom Weale (65), Dec Somel (70), Lewis Rankin (93)

Birstall: Charlie Doherty, Andres Articolo, Reif Armstrong, Owen Dewing, Kane Barrs, Reece Lefly, Dion Potter (Harli Skeete 57), Karl Whymark (Will Burton 74), Josh Crossley (Tom Vyce 57), Corey Bucalossi, Muhammad Jaffar. Subs not used: Freddie Young, Sean Phillips.

Goals: Josh Crossley (4, 16), Corey Bucalossi (37)

Attendance: 137

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