Hitchin chalked up their first league win on the road with a comfortable victory against struggling Gosport Borough. The Canaries saw off a home side that would have hoped for a kick start after appointing Mick Catlin as their new boss during the week. It was all the more encouraging as all three scorers opened their seasonal accounts.
The team lined up with Dan Webb partnered by Josh Bickerstaff in the centre of defence, and Lewis Rolfe dropping to the bench.
Hitchin got off to the best possible start on five minutes. A Lucas Kirkpatrick corner reached Callum Donnelly beyond the far post. He chipped the ball back into the centre of the area as the home defence stepped forward. It left Brett Donnelly alone in front of goal and, although everyone appeared to stop – expecting an offside flag – the striker reacted first to turn and slot home.
Both teams searched for the critical second goal with Gosport, fired up by returning midfielder Jamie Brown, giving as good as they got. Watts skated through Hitchin’s defence but they recovered to block Omwachwu before he could convert the ball from Watts. The number 9 did force Michael Johnson into a save down by the foot of his post and then turned provider. His nodded flick on was into the path of Woodward who got past the defence but blazed over the crossbar.
Hitchin thought they had doubled their lead on after half an hour as Webb nodded down a corner and Bickerstaff converted, but this time the flag was up. Bickerstaff then forced Cafer into a fingertip save over the bar with an acrobatic overhead effort.
With both sides scrapping for points at the wrong end of the table, the game was certainly competitive rather than beautiful. The referee had tried to let the game flow, relying on talking to the players. However by the interval, the card total was beginning to accumulate with two players from each side receiving cautions.
Half time – Gosport Borough 0 Hitchin Town 1
Brett opens the scoring
Mark Burke was forced into a half time switch as Callum Donnelly had picked up an ankle injury and was replaced by Charlie Smith. Within five minutes it was clear that Brett Donnelly, who was one of the four first half bookings, was in the referee’s sights and Burke wisely replaced him with Connor Vincent.
The substitute – who had looked lively when coming on against St Ives – just failed to connect with a Jack Green cross from the left but he did score the vital second goal on 55 minutes. An error by Cafer saw the ball fall to Vincent and his low shot from 12 yards extended the lead.
Despite Catlin ringing the changes from the bench, Gosport were now struggling to make a positive impression as Hitchin’s defence absorbed the home side’s threat, with Webb and Bickerstaff forming a solid combination. Instead Cafer did well to stop a long range Cotter shot, and twice denied Jonny McNamara. McNamara and Vincent also came close to punishing a slip at the back by Harry Medway.
The yellow card total continued to mount and Hitchin won that battle 5-4. However the goals dried up with Dowie shooting wide after carrying the ball forward as the game entered stoppage time.
The win was sealed though in the last minute of stoppage time when the Canaries created a well crafted goal. The ball was worked from left to right across the edge of the area before Kirkpatrick put the ball into the path of substitute Trey Charles, who had replaced the injured Green. Charles hit an angled, rising shot past Cafer – some consolation for being denied his first goal last week – to add the icing to the cake.
The victory was deserved for the hard work that the team put into the performance and, once the second goal had gone in, never looked in doubt. The Canaries have now put together a run of four unbeaten games as they face two home fixtures in the next week, with a bigfreebet.com cup fixture against Bishops Stortford on Monday and the Non League Day match against Stratford Town next Saturday.
Final score – Gosport Borough 0 Hitchin Town 3
Gosport Borough – Cafer, Page, Sanchese, Lis, Medway, Sanders, Buse, Brown, Omwachwu, Woodward, Watts; subs – Smith (for Omwachwu), Saidy (Woodward), Haddlesley, Mannu (Watts), Leigh
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Cotter, Walster, Dowie, Webb, Bickerstaff, Kirkpatrick, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, Green, McNamara; subs – Rolfe, Smith (C Donnelly), Bailey, Charles (Green), Vincent (B Donnelly)
Hitchin Town – B Donnelly (5), Vincent (55), Charles (90+4)
Gosport Borough – Buse, Cafer, Omwachwu, Medway
Hitchin Town – B Donnelly, Dowie, McNamara, Walster, Vincent
Attendance – 255