Hinckley currently play their home games some 10 or so miles North of the town at the former home of Ibstock Town, The Welfare Ground. This is now logistics country. On the way to the ground from the motorway you will pass an Amazon fulfilment centre, Stobart, MTS Logidstics and Premier Logistics depots. Not forgetting that Hinckley are sponsored by another logistics company, DPD. A landscape that was once littered with
winding gear from the mines is now peppered with large warehouses and containers.
The football stadium is part of a larger complex, the Ibstock Miners Welfare Sports & Social Club which also caters for bowls, has a 3G five-a-side pitch and is home to the local pigeon fanciers. There is ample parking adjacent to the ground, which is accessed through a brick-arched turnstile bearing the name of the original owners, Ibstock Welfare FC. The ground itself has been completely re-badged for Hinckley AFC (with a nod towards local Sunday side Sporting Dynamo, who also play here), with the club logo adorning the clubhouse, the stands and the Portakabin that serves as a small bar and club shop inside the ground.
The facilities are all on the car park side of the ground. The club shop, a snack bar, the dugouts and all of the covered areas are along this side of the pitch. The are two covered stands, either side of the rear wall of the main club building. Nearest the entrance is a white-posted covered standing area with a small seating area further down the ground.The ground has been around for quite a while and, as such, has plenty of character about it, something that was also noted by The Wycombe Wanderer on his visit here to watch Ibstock United just before they went out of existence.
When Hinckley United folded back in October 2013 a group of supporters got together and formed a new team, Hinckley AFC, owned and run by the supporter's trust. The new club came into being in 2014 and was placed in Division One of the Midland League three steps below the level that United played at before they went under.
Stafford were promoted back to Division One in the Summer after spending a season in the Staffordshire County League. So far it has not been a an easy transition back into Step 6 life. Going into this game they were just a point above basement boys Nuneaton Griff and could only show two wins and eight points from their 17 games. Those two wins both came early in the season, the first being a 2-1 victory against Hinckley in the reverse of tonight's game. The last win in any competition came early in September and their last 6 league games had all ended in defeat, conceding 29 goals an scoring just 4 themselves.
Hinckley, meanwhile, were placed 6th with 26 points from their 15 games, although they had lost their last league game, a 4-0 home defeat Leicester Road, who were also formed after the demise of Hinckley United and actually continue to play at United's old De Montfort Park ground.
The game started at a frantic pace. From the kick-off Stafford attacked but when their foray fizzled out, Hinckley were quick to break to the other end of the pitch and start a raid of their own. In fact, within the first five minutes the home side could easily have been two goals to the good, with both Green and Richards coming very close, the second after two consecutive corners caused chaos in the Town defence with Richards seeing his effort hacked off the line by a grey-clad defender.
Hinckely continued to make the running in the game but could not completely relax with the lively-looking Kyle Ashman giving their defenders plenty to think about on the rare occasions that the ball found him.
17 minutes in, Hinckley won a free-kic kjust outside the box. Bekir Halil curled an effort around the wall which beat George Hill in the Stafford goal but, unfortunately for the home side, also just beat the keeper's left-hand post. However, Hinckley were now completely in control of the game and it seemed just a matter of time before they made their dominance count.
Just before the half-hour mark though football played one of its little tricks that so often happen. Totally against the run of play a Stafford throw-in was flicked on by Ashman. Ed Page latched onto it, drove into the box holding off a challenge as he did, and slipped the ball under the advancing debutant Elliott Taylor to score his first goal for Stafford and give them a very surprising lead. 0-1
The goal served to galvanise both sides but Stafford's joy was only to last for 4 minutes when, on 31 minutes, some great work on the right-hand side led to a low cross laying a tap-in on a plate for Shane Benjamin. 1-1. This would surely be the boost that the home side needed to go on and win the game? However, despite plenty more pressure before the end of the half and at least one more effort being cleared off the line, they couldn't grab a second and had to be happy with a share of the first half spoils.
HT Hinckley 1 Stafford Town 1. Not sure how this game was level at the break. Stafford would be pleased with their night's work up to this point, but surely Hinckley would make their dominance pay as the game wore on.
Hinckley continued to huff and puff but didn't really cause Hil any moments of concern until the 72nd minute when Thompson got on the end of a free-kick inside the box. However, even then the Stafford stopper needn't have been worried as the ball was sent sailing over his bar when it really should have been the equaliser.
FT Hinckley 1 Stafford Town 2. A superb three points for Stafford, well deserved on the effort they put in. Hinckley, after dominating the first half but failing to take advantage, were disappointing in the second period, conceding a goal and then failing to make the Stafford keeper make a save until 2 minutes from time.
Hinckley: Taylor, Reuben, Rowe, Kendrick, Green, Ball, Thompson, Halil, Benjamin, Richards(c), Hirst. Subs: Cross, Giles, Brown, Commins, Webster
Stafford Town: Hill, Marshall(c), Jessup, Turner, Wright, Webb, Milgate, Ashman, Page, Baker, Heath. Subs: Dufft, Redford, Marshall, Kelly, Concar
Ground Number: 221