In their final game before the festivities, the ghost of Christmas past came back to haunt Hinckley as former striker Matt Gardner grabbed a second half winner for Coton Green to end AFC’s winning sequence.
Gardner showed he hasn’t lost any of those predatory instincts in front of goal that have served him well over the years, and his diving header was enough to separate the sides.
It was an entertaining game with chances aplenty, especially during the first half, and Hinckley will feel they should have taken something from the game given the opportunities they created.
That they didn’t was largely down to the performance of Corey Samuels in the Coton goal. He made a string of fine saves throughout the game to frustrate Hinckley, especially Chandler Pegg who might have had a hat trick on another day.
The first half was a very open, entertaining affair. Gardner shot powerfully at Brandon Bache before dragging a shot wide after being gift wrapped a chance by the home defence whilst at the other end, Lewis Collins struck the base of a post and Samuels served notice of what was to come as he saved Pegg’s snap shot on the goal line.
Coton took the lead midway through the half, an excellent individual strike from Connor Doyle who worked himself an opening as he danced his way along the edge of the penalty area before drilling a shot into the top corner.
Hinckley’s response was swift as they levelled with a wonderful goal. Danny Fraser began it with a sweeping ball that picked out Jack Edwards on the right, and his low cross was nonchalantly flicked home by Collins inside the far post.
AFC looked to take the lead before the break, but Samuels stood firm to tip over Matt Dawson’s fierce shot before beating away Pegg’s shot.
The personal duel between Samuels and Pegg continued early in the second half as the keeper clawed away the striker’s header from Lewis Rankin’s searching cross before the game’s decisive moment ten minutes into the second half. Doyle did well on the right flank to send in a low cross and Gardner stooped to head home the goal that ultimately settled the game.
Almost immediately play switched to the other end, and for once Samuels was beaten but a defender was well placed to clear Adam Barber’s header off the line.
But that was as close as Hinckley came to rescuing a point. The visitors managed the game well and though AFC enjoyed plenty of possession, a resolute wall of green defenders frustrated them.
Hinckley had one late chance, a surging run from Barber took him from one penalty area to the other before Samuels completed a superb night’s work by pushing his shot over the bar to secure the points for his team.
Hinckley: Brandon Bache, Matt Dawson (Harry Walker-Donovan 53), Adam Barber (Jack Beasley 88), Jack Edwards, Joe McNulty (Lewis Padmore 79), Sam Walton, Lewis Rankin, Ben Newport (Fortune Sibanda 90), Chandler Pegg, Lewis Collins, Danny Fraser. Sub not used: Luke Wilson.
Goal: Lewis Collins (28)
Coton Green: Corey Samuels, Jamie Ashmore, Joe Smith, Charlie Noakes, Luke Fox, Luke Hennessy, Fraser Doyle, Kurt Shiels (Conor Wright 88), Matt Gardner (Ryan Conlon 70), Brett Fellows (Brad Lindsey 83), Connor Doyle. Subs not used: Harry Reece, Lewan Tobin.
Goals: Connor Doyle (22), Matt Gardner (56)