AFC Hinckley were left to rue a sluggish performance coupled with a laughable refereeing performance and their much more clinical hosts as their ten game unbeaten run came to an end last night.
It can only be assumed that thoughts were on Saturday’s massive FA Cup tie with Chasetown as the 3-0 score line did not flatter Neighbours Nuneaton Griff.
In truth Hinckley did not turn up but the game plan of the hosts was evident from the start, to rattle Hinckley and frustrate them. In the first fifteen minutes many “derby challenges” were put in from the home side, particularly in midfield, not allowing Hinckley to get into any sort of rhythm. The biggest surprise was it took until 12 minutes for the first yellow to be produced by a very whistle happy referee. Time wasting was also evident from the off with ball boys not giving the spare ball back to get the game moving and slowing the play themselves every time the ball did go out of play.
The plan worked though and Hinckley were riled. Captain Luke Richards was the luckiest man on the pitch not to be sent off after 15 minutes when a clear stamp on the Nuneaton full back after he was fouled was missed by the referee who was no more than five yards away. Four minutes later Richards was booked, but this time for a fair, hard tackle which won the ball.
Nuneaton took the lead just as they started to apply a little pressure of their own. The first corner of the game was played toward the near post and Josh Ruff cleverly ran onto and nodded it into the far corner.
They continued to attack for a second, although the closest they came was a tame free kick straight into the keepers’ arms.
Leading goal scorer Marco Adaggio was completely isolated all game and was feeding off scraps. He cleverly worked one move mid-way through the first half after turning his man out on the right wing but had no support and the chance had gone.
Nuneaton were to score a second, again from a corner. This time played to the far post and a bullet header went flying into the empty net after ‘keeper Sam Arnold was caught in no man’s land. The referee disallowed the goal however to the bemusement of both sets of fans. From the free kick Nuneaton won possession straight back and looked certain to score again but for a save with his legs from Arnold.
Before half time Nuneaton would double their lead however. The impressive Dom Smith would, for once, shy out of a challenge and Luke Shorthouse knocked the ball past him and slotted in the one-on-one.
With the wind behind them in the second half, Hinckley at least increased the work rate and forced their first corner of the game. Smith continued to be a danger with his physical presence but still there was no gamble from the midfield support. Dynamism and impetus from the midfield were the most notable elements missing in the first half and Nathan Walker in particular at least tried to correct that himself, putting in some hard tackles and getting in some decent attacking positions with no end product. Javia Roberts continued to be Hinckley’s best attacking outlet, his pace causing the Nuneaton defence problems, however he seemed to be doing his best impression of Raheem Sterling – a heavy first touch and relying on his pace to rectify. His efforts were also noticed as he turned ball boy himself, chasing after every over hit pass that went out for a goal kick.
Nuneaton would continue to attack on the counter and earned a dangerous looking free kick on the edge of the area. It was fired in but Arnold was equal to it, parrying it out and gathering at the second attempt.
It would go from bad to worse for Hinckley as the solid (bar that one moment in the first half) Smith would get sent off. After a heavy touch in the middle of the park, he was late into a challenge and was booked – eventually. In moaning at how long it took the referee to book him and letting his feelings on the decision very clear to the referee, he talked himself into a second yellow and was sent off.
Hinckley continued to press to their own down fall. Nuneaton on the counter overloaded the far side and switched the play, scoring a nice team goal to round a very comfortable and deserved 3-0 win.
On leaving, many fans shared the comments “That is possibly the worst we have ever played” and manager Carl Abbott tweeted post-match “Absolutely appaliing performance tonight. Hands up, no excuses. First time I’ve said that for a while. We dust down.”.