A cruel last-minute winner sank Holwell Sports’ bid to lift the Senior County Cup for the first time in almost 60 years on Tuesday evening.
While the Holwell back four waited for an offside flag to be raised, Leicester Road forward Tom McGlinchy exploited the hesitation, darting through from an onside position to make it 2-1 and seal the Hinckley side their first county cup.
It was cruel on John Webster’s side who recovered wellfrom an early setback and had carved out enough chances to beat good quality opponents in a breathless and entertaining final at Holmes Park.
Leicester Road, risen from the ashes of Hinckley United, underlined their standing as hot favourites with an impressive opening, showing fine touch, control and technique.
Holwell were given no time to settle as their opponents moved the ball at pace, attacking chiefly down the right flank.
Matty Stenson had already been denied by Rob Woodcock’s fine challenge before Leicester Road took a seventh-minute lead.
Sports were cut open through the middle by swift, neat passing, and despite another good challenge on Joseph Lynne, the ball broke to Jake Holt following in who beat Jamie Witham with a firm finish.
Holwell were rattled and looked in danger of being swamped as they sought a foothold in the game.
Liam Chapman was causing the greatest threat, swinging in a series of pinpoint corners which the Leicester Road defence and keeper just about coped with.
The Knitters had another good chance when Billy Bennett beat Holwell skipper Aaron Ridout down the left. His cutback eventually fell to Luke Kingsley-Smith who blazed over from 10 yards.
But to their great credit Holwell grew into the game and began to see more of the ball in good positions,
Kieran Foster almost took advantage of a defensive slip on the half-hour, but keeper Will Highland was out quickly to smother.
And just three minutes later Mark Tinsley did equalise with a sublime finish.
As the ball broke to him on the edge of the box, Holwell’s leading scorer picked his spot and curl a shot into the top right corner.
Leicester Road hit back and went close twice more before the break.
Witham got down well to his right to keep out Stenson’s goalbound header, and when Chapman cleared another Stenson effort off the line, the Holwell stopper made an outstanding reaction save to keep out the follow-up.
After the relentless pace of the first half, the crowd may have expected a lull after the break, but there was little sign of that as play became increasingly frenetic and fractured in an end-to-end second half.
Greg Downes fired over after being played in by Stenson’s precise through ball, while at the other end, Stevenson’s fierce 20-yard strike deflected just wide off a team-mate, and Tinsley forced a low save from distance.
And when Leicester Road missed two golden chances midway through the half, the feeling grew that it could be Holwell’s night.
Downes somehow stooped to head wide when unmarked in front of goal, and less than a minute later Stenson got behind Holwell’s defence, but also headed wide as Witham closed him down.
In a classic cup tie of ebb and flow, Foster almost made them pay with two fizzing deliveries across the six-yard box.
The first was almost diverted in for an own goal, while the second found Ian Bitmead at the back post just yards from goal, but his miscued shot screwed back across goal.
With time ticking into the last 10 minutes, both sides looked likely winners.
Witham made another fine stop from the impressive Stenson when one-on-one, and McGlinchy went agonisingly close after some superb approach play, sliding a finish across Witham and just past the post.
Foster’s eyes lit up when the ball broke to him in space in the goalmouth, but his rising shot cleared the bar.
And then came the killer twist.
With fans beginning to settle in for extra time, McGlinchy’s alert thinking and calm finish was enough to settle an excellent final.