Chandler Pegg marked his return from injury with a brace to steer Hinckley AFC to a third win inside a week with a 2-0 victory over nine-man Ashby Ivanhoe.
Hinckley played for the best part of an hour with two extra men as Ashby’s captain Macauley Holmes and leading scorer Sam Grouse both saw red inside the first half.
And, with Ashby playing 20 minutes of the second period with eight men following two sinbins for dissent, Pegg made Hinckley’s numerical advantage pay.
AFC’s leading scorer was back up front after an ankle problem, a crucial return given Joe Conneely was without the ill Lewis Collins or the unavailable Joe Obi and Lewis Rankin as three forward options.
But what was billed as an exciting local derby between two of the league’s top four sides turned into an ill-tempered and ill-disciplined encounter for the 221 spectators, in which Hinckley kept their heads to take all three points.
In total, the referee showed 14 cards – ten to Ashby players, one to a member of their management team and three to Hinckley players.
The game had a subdued opening, Ashby content to let Hinckley have the ball and attempt to catch their hosts on the break. Grouse, the league’s top marksman, spurned a golden chance when he got in behind but lobbed over the bar.
That was the best chance of the half – Hinckley had a couple of shots well blocked with the game still at 11v11 before the major flashpoint came 20 minutes in.
After Harry Stewart’s initial hard but fair tackle on Sam Ellis, Pegg strode towards goal – his run ended by a scything challenge from behind by Liam Donaghy, for which the Ashby right-back escaped with only a booking. In the ensuing melee, Holmes thrust his head at Jack Beasley and was sent off while Hinckley’s Matt Dawson was booked for his part in the fracas.
Fifteen minutes later Grouse, already on a booking for persistent fouling, caught Beasley with an arm and was shown a second yellow.
It left Hinckley with nearly an hour to play with a two-man advantage but they lacked their usual precision on the ball.
Understandably, Ashby defended deep and led well by Joe Neal, who was one of only three Ashby outfield starters not to see a card, they kept their shape well, throwing their bodies on the line to prevent ‘keeper Tommy Dyche being called into too much action.
Hinckley stepped up the tempo slightly after the break but Dyche denied Ellis, substitute Luke Francis and Jack Edwards.
But with Ashby down to eight on the hour, Josh Thomas in the sinbin for dissent before Ash Garner would later taste the same fate, Hinckley broke the deadlock. It was a fortuitous goal, but one Hinckley were relieved to see as Edwards’ shot struck the base of the post, and when Garner took his time to get rid of the loose ball, his clearance struck Pegg and rebounded home.
Tom Weale then nodded a free header wide of the far post before Hinckley made the result secure inside the final ten minutes. Edwards was brought down by Dyche in the box, and Pegg sent the ‘keeper the wrong way from the spot to give Hinckley a calmer final ten minutes to play out their third straight win and keep their second straight league clean sheet.
Hinckley: Brandon Bache, Matt Dawson, Danny Fraser, Jack Edwards, Sam Walton, Jack Beasley (Joe McNulty 46), Harry Walker-Donovan (Luke Francis 46), Tom Weale (Will Mansfield 85), Chandler Pegg, Sam Ellis, Isa Abraham. Subs not used: Adam Barber, Luke Wilson.
Goals: Chandler Pegg (63, 81 pen)
Ashby: Tommy Dyche, Joe Neal, Macauley Holmes, Liam Donaghy (Liam Storer 46), Ash Garner, Sam Grouse, Harry Stewart, Josh Thomas, Will Robson, Ross McGarry, George Teeney (Will Groocock 58). Subs not used: Nathan McAllister, Sam Taylor, Will Pickering.