Highgate United 0-0 (4-3) Hinckley AFC

The curtain came down on a momentous campaign for Hinckley in the cruellest fashion as they relinquished their grip on the League Cup after a penalty shoot-out defeat to Highgate United.

It was a valiant effort from AFC, who were pinned on the back foot in the early stages before finding their feet and going toe-to-toe with one of the Premier Division’s leading lights. A draw was a fair outcome to a keenly contested, entertaining semi-final that neither side deserved to lose.

In the end though, Highgate kept their nerve in the shoot-out and progress to next week’s final against Congleton Town at Walsall’s Poundland Bescot Stadium to shatter hopes of a Hinckley double.

United began the game with the confidence of a side who’d won their previous match 12-0. They were relentless in the early stages as Brandon Bache fumbled Charlie Shaw’s shot to safety before Corey Currithers’ long range effort came back off the base of a post.

Hinckley withstood that early pressure and came into the game, Dec Somel rose high to head over Matt Dawson’s inviting cross before Dawson himself drove a long range shot over.

The second half was a good watch as two free-scoring sides sought to break the deadlock. Currithers headed Shaw’s corner over when well placed before AFC enjoyed their best spell of the game. Jack Edwards burst into the box before shooting straight at Reece Francis before Ky Green struck a post after Isa Abraham and Lewis Rankin worked a short corner routine and Edwards saw another shot deflected for a corner.

Substitute Josh Beeson then saw a close range shot blocked after a superb free kick between Tom Weale and Rankin caught the home defence napping, before play switched back to the other end with Ryan Harkin lobbing over.

Aaron Brown crashed a shot against the bar for the hosts before the game entered nine minutes of added time. Hinckley thought they’d won it, Beeson finding the net but an offside flag against Riley Davoile cut short celebrations, much to the chagrin of the visiting contingent.

Bache then blocked well late on to leave the deadlock unbroken and penalties required to find the winner.

Joe Obi converted his before Chandler Pegg struck the bar to give the home side the advantage. Highgate’s spot kicks were perfect and even though Weale and Rankin converted theirs, when Davoile’s kick was well saved by Francis diving to his right, Highgate’s progression to the final was assured.

So, it wasn’t to be for Hinckley but they can reflect on a fine performance against a good side to leave fans looking forward to next season at step five.

Highgate: Reece Francis, James Wilcock (Shay Palmer 60), Ben Vallance (Connor Mooney 70), Liam Cairns (Aaron Brown 66), George Cleet, Nathan Pulisciano, Corey Currithers, Charlie Shaw (Josh O’Grady 81), Aaron Williams, Jake Collins (Ryan Harkin 66), Basit Mandey.

Hinckley: Brandon Bache, Matt Dawson, Adam Barber (Danny Fraser 97), Preston Bitemo, Ky Green, Joe Obi, Lewis Rankin, Tom Weale, Jack Edwards (Riley Davoile 79), Dec Somel (Chandler Pegg 93), Isa Abraham (Josh Beeson 66). Sub not used: Harry Walker-Donovan.

Attendance: 120

, , ,