The Waders’ ground has been a happy hunting ground for Hitchin in recent seasons. On this occasion though, despite plenty of Canary possession, the hard-working hosts made the most of their chances to claim three points.
Hitchin opted for experience with a starting eleven that saw the return of Josh Bickerstaff, Lewis Rolfe and Callum and Brett Donnelly and lined up with a back five and two men up front. They started well as both Donnellys combined to put Liam Brooks through but his effort was tipped away by former Canary loan signing Liam Gooch in the home goal.
That was to be Brett Donnelly’s last contribution as he twisted and fell awkwardly after a physical challenge by Hoyte. The striker was taken off the field on a stretcher and straight to hospital, with Elliot Bailey coming on earlier than he would have expected.
Play swung between both ends of the pitch and Michael Johnson saved from Bowen when the forward broke through on goal. At the other end Hoyte blocked a Brooks effort and Gooch saved from Lucas Kirkpatrick.
Just past the half hour the hosts took the lead after Walster gave away possession and a cross shot from Penfold on the left was bundled in at the opposite post by Bowen.
Hitchin responded by starting to play the ball to feet and Kavan Cotter forced a good save from Gooch with a dipping shot from the edge of the box following good build-up. However they did not have long to wait for a leveller and further good approach play saw Kirkpatrick put Elliot Bailey through in front of goal. The substitute slotted the ball past Gooch for his first league goal of the season on 41 minutes.
Both Jay Dowie and Brooks had efforts off target as Hitchin ended the half as the stronger side during eight minutes of injury time.
Half time – Biggleswade Town 1 Hitchin Town 1
At this point, with Hitchin again retaining possession, it appeared the Canaries could take something from the game. However the Waders made an astute change with Tony Burnett coming on to add power to their attack. He had an early shot that went wide after he turned off his marker.
The greater thrust in attack paid dividends on 61 minutes when Biggleswade regained the lead as Penfold cut in from the right and fired home from a tight angle.
Hitchin went in search of a second equaliser, bringing on Trey Charles and Jack Green for Cotter and Kirkpatrick. They had a succession of shots with Callum Donnelly’s effort proving easy for Gooch, and the keeper picking off a curling effort by Charles.
Bailey came close following a run on goal as his first shot was blocked by a defender and his follow up gathered by Gooch. The Canaries commitment to attack saw Dan Webb spending as much time up front as defending. He was booked harshly as he and Gooch went for a teasing cross by Charles. The winger then brought out a fine save from the keeper with a shot from the edge of the area, before the same Hitchin combination saw the captain just fail to connect with another cross from Charles.
As the game moved into injury time, Callum Donnelly shot wide and Webb headed wide but there was to be no end result for the possession.
In any other season, this defeat at the hands of local rivals Biggleswade Town would have dropped the Canaries into the relegation zone. Although not the case this season due to league restructuring, the search for that elusive first league win becomes more important.
Mark Burke and Adam Parker – who were both absent from this fixture – will no doubt be reflecting on that as Hitchin face another local derby on Bank Holiday Monday against Royston Town.
FULL TIME Biggleswade Town 2 Hitchin Town 1
Biggleswade Town – Gooch, Walker, Perry, Fielding, Hill, Hoyte, Daniel, Hall, Bowen, Parker, Penfold; subs – Montgomery (for Penfold), Jarvis, Alban-Jones (for Hill), Burnett (for Fielding)
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Cotter, Walster, Rolfe, Webb, Bickerstaff, Kirkpatrick, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, Brooks, Dowie; subs – Bailey (for B Donnelly), Charles (for Cotter), Green (for Kirkpatrick), Goode, Roberts
Biggleswade Town – Bowen (31), Penfold (61)
Hitchin Town – Bailey (44)
Hitchin Town – Kirkpatrick, Webb
Attendance – 379