A harsh 3-0 scoreline masked another good Holwell Sports display as late goals saw Anstey Nomads extend their unbeaten start.
Holwell knew the size of their task away to the United Counties League Division One leaders, and with O’Grady and Ridout unavailable, manager Andy Gray was unable send out the same side which had beaten Thrapston seven days earlier.
Hazeldine slotted in at left-back, while Betteridge moved to the centre of defence and Tinsley was brought in up front.
But Holwell started sharply enough and had Anstey on the back foot, with Hazeldine doing a fine job to restrict winger Cosmos Matwasa on the right and Robinson equally up to the task on the left against Ash Day.
Thompson sent in a rasping shot from the edge of the box as his tenacious tackling gave Nomads food for thought.
Anstey relied on their wingers to get behind the defence, and Matwasa cut in from the right to create a half-chance and Ben Tansley’s shot hit the outside of Holwell’s right-hand post.
But the visitors were on top and creating chances of their own.
A good move involving Baker, putting in another stellar performance in midfield, and Ambrose earned a corner, and from it Bitmead’s header rose over the bar.
Tinsley then found space after a defensive error, but shot over, while Binns was alert to make a good save from Matwasa at the other end on the half-hour.
Holwell edged closer when Liam Chapman’s low free-kick from the right forced home keeper Smith to parry away.
As the half wore on Holwell were living dangerously, but were unlucky not to take the lead when Michael Stevenson found a clear sight of goal, but Smith did well to stop his shot and then gather the loose ball.
Holwell again started the second half well, with Baker and Chapman combining to tee up Ambrose who just could not get the ball out of his feet.
Minutes later a long ball into the box caused panic in Anstey’s defence as both centre-backs collided going for the ball.
But it was Binns who had to save well from Matwasa, who was kept quiet for most of the match.
Another good spell just after the hour saw Tinsley win another loose ball and give full-back Robinson space for a powerful shot which Smith again did well to turn away.
But the tide began to change as Nomads upped the pace late on as Holwell’s exertions took their toll.
And the deadlock was broken on 73 minutes when Anstey cut through the centre of Holwell’s defence and sub James Hicks finished well.
Fellow substitute Harry Sheffield caused problems for Holwell since coming on and broke their spirit with 13 minutes left when he played in Ash Day to double the lead.
Holwell had run out of steam now as Nomads scored a superb last-minute third.
New signing Ball sent a pinpoint cross-field pass long over Holwell’s defence for Matwasa who controlled before sending in a low cross which Hicks forced over the line.
It was a scoreline which flattered the home side who had been second-best until late on, as Holwell produced a display which they can build on at Aylestone on Saturday (ko 3pm).
Holwell then face a rare derby clash with Asfordby FC next Tuesday in the first round of the Senior County Cup (ko 7.30pm).
Holwell: Binns, Robinson, Hazeldine, Bitmead, Betteridge, Thompson, Stevenson, Baker (Calver), Chapman, Tinsley (McGarry) Ambrose. Subs not used: Hendey, B. Smith.