Hinckley AFC’s four-month unbeaten league run is over as Ingles moved up to second place with a 1-0 win at Kirkby Road.
AFC hadn’t lost in Division One since late September but had an uphill task to maintain that when Matt Langham gave the visitors an early lead.
And despite going down to ten men in the second half, Ingles clung on and became the first team to prevent Hinckley scoring this season.
It was the visitors’ fourth consecutive clean sheet, and this one had their goal leading a charmed life. They defended resolutely, but Hinckley did everything but score in the second half. They hit the post, had a goal disallowed and forced ‘keeper Lorcan Morrissey into a string of outstanding saves to leave them reflecting that they will play a lot worse in games and win.
That said, Hinckley’s start was slow and Ingles were the brighter team early on. Adam Boulter headed a decent chance over the bar before they took the lead after 11 minutes. Their front two combined as Jude Ayetine got to the byline and squared for Langham to tap home from close range.
Hinckley responded well to that early setback though, and set about levelling. Their build-up play was neat, but they lacked a cutting edge that meant they didn’t create much during the opening 45 minutes. Indeed, the only save either ‘keeper had to make before the break was when Morrissey dived to stop Lewis Rankin’s free-kick.
After the break, though, Hinckley were more crisp on the ball and came close to an equaliser 30 seconds after the re-start when a loose ball fell for Brady Middleton at the far post, but Morrissey raced out quickly to block.
That was a sign of things to come – shortly afterwards Morrissey made a similar save from Rankin and then stuck out a right palm at point blank range to deny Dec Somel’s rebound, a truly remarkable save.
And momentum swung further Hinckley’s way eight minutes into the half when George Wesley, already on a booking, caught Charlie Swingwood late and was sent for an early bath.
For all Hinckley’s dominance, Ingles came within inches of doubling their lead shortly afterwards – it was their only chance of the half but Hinckley were relieved that Matt Dawson’s goalline clearance denied Langham following a long throw.
After that, the game almost mirrored a training exercise as Hinckley recycled phase after phase to try and break down the well-organised Ingles back line which headed and kicked nearly everything that came into their box.
With 20 minutes to go, Dawson drilled one into the bottom corner but the referee deemed Morrissey had been fouled from the initial set piece.
It was already starting to feel like one of those days for Hinckley, even more so when Swingwood met Rankin’s free kick but powered a free header over the bar from close range, or when Rankin bent one from the edge of the box which bounced off the post.
Morrissey was then in the right place at the right time to deny Dawson, and flew out to block from Joe Cairns in another fine save as Hinckley wondered if their moment would come.
It meant Ingles took their lead into stoppage time, and there was still time for one more piece of Morrissey magic. Dawson’s cross found Tom Weale, his clever flick was destined for the top corner until the ‘keeper’s outstretched left hand tipped it over and sealed Ingles’ hard-fought win.
Hinckley: Matt Hill, Matt Dawson, Danny Fraser, Preston Bitemo, Ky Green, Charlie Swingwood, Lewis Rankin, Tom Weale, Brady Middleton (Isa Abraham 70), Declan Somel (Riley Davoile 67), Jack Edwards (Joe Cairns 59). Subs not used: Jack Beasley, Zaki Evans.
Ingles: Lorcan Morrissey, Joe Goodwin, Josh Bowley, Dan Chapman, Adam Boulter (Ad,am Palmer 37), George Wesley, Billy Snaith (Jack Allen 57), Kian Armson (Ollie Grimshaw 46), Matt Langham (Aaron Windram 83), Jude Ayetine (Cameron Smith 57), Billy Blackshaw.
Goal: Matt Langham (11)