The Canaries dug deep for their first league victory of the season with a single Callum Donnelly goal in this Bank Holiday local derby. After taking the lead in the first half, they had to withstand some intense pressure from the Crows before the points were safe.
Hitchin were without the injured Brett Donnelly from Saturday’s starting line-up, while for the visitors’ ex-Canaries John Frendo and Matt Nolan were also absent.
Royston – who have settled well in their first season at Step 3 – nearly scored in the first minute as Vasey robbed Lewis Rolfe and cut the ball back for Potton to fire over. The game saw both sides create opportunities as Elliot Bailey fired across goal and keeper Welch gathered the ball from Bailey after Lucas Kirkpatrick and Kavan Cotter had worked room to cross from the right. Hitchin thought they had taken the lead when Dan Webb nodded a free kick down to Liam Brooks who poked the ball home. However the assistant’s flag had already been raised.
At the other end, Michael Johnson was called into action as he pulled off a fine save to deny Ingray’s header from a Castiglione cross and then a regulation stop from central defender Asafu-Adjaye. Scott Bridges also sent a free kick just wide of the keeper’s left hand post.
Brooks turned contributor with a cross from the right which Kirkpatrick connected with but could not get direction on the ball. However Hitchin did not have to wait for long to open the scoring. On 35 minutes, a diagonal ball from the halfway line on the right saw Donnelly gamble as the ball eluded the last defender. The midfielder ran with the ball and calmly picked his spot to beat Welch and give the Canaries a vital lead.
The Canaries also saw Welch save from a fierce Brooks shot but Royston were not out of the game as Scott-Morriss crossed for Vasey whose header went wide just before the break.
HALF TIME – Hitchin Town 1 Royston Town 0
After the break, Brooks and Cotter combine to set up Kirkpatrick for a shot but Hitchin were letting Royston push forward and Castiglione and Potton combined to replicate Hitchin’s trademark corner routine. However the shot went wide. Scott-Morriss also fired across the face of the goal as the Canaries started to back-pedal.
The Canaries brought on Trey Charles and Conor Roberts and switched to a back four with Roberts and Bickerstaff at full back. Charles nearly relieved the pressure with his first involvement as he cut in from the right and forced a low save from Welch. The winger also put the overlapping Roberts through on the right and his cross flew across the Royston goal face.
However Johnson – who was back to his commanding best – was the busier keeper, demonstrating clean handling and having to save from Stuart Bridges.
Charles forced Welch into one sharp save but, at the other end, Hitchin’s defence was under pressure with even Bailey having to hack clear from a Chapell long throw. Webb and then Johnson cleared the threat from a dangerous Royston free kick and Orlando-Young fired over the goal.
Hitchin tried to defend in Royston’s half with Brooks getting in a shot that Welch gathered easily, while Charles could not get a good header onto a Rolfe free kick. Fans feared a repeat of the late late show against St Neots but this time the defence held firm with Bickerstaff and Kirkpatrick both getting in vital clearances.
FULL TIME – Hitchin Town 1 Royston Town 0
The Canaries find themselves with five points from five games – the same haul as at this stage last season. They now have the diversion of a tough FA Cup trip to Haringey Borough before the resume league action at Tiverton on 9 September.
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Cotter, Walster, Bickerstaff, Webb, Rolfe, Kirkpatrick, Callum Donnelly, Brooks, Bailey, Dowie; subs – Green (for Donnelly), Charles (for Cotter), Roberts (for Walster), Smith, Syme
Royston Town – Welch, Scott-Morriss, Chapell, Scott Bridges, Asafu-Adjaye, Braithwaite, Ingrey, Stuart Bridges, Vasey, Potton, Castiglione; subs – Orlando-Young (for Vasey), Tewkesbury, Marriott (for Castiglione), Alomenu, Powell (for Scott Bridges)
Hitchin Town – Callum Donnelly (35)
Hitchin Town – Cotter
Attendance – 513
Sponsors’ MOTM – Elliot Bailey