The build up to this game was dominated by the news that Kings Lynn had signed ex Norwich players Grant Holt and Simon Lappin and an impressive crowd of 1,067 turned up to see their arrival. As it was both started on the bench with Holt only coming on for 18 minutes and Lappin for 9 minutes.
Hitchin suffered a body blow with the news that Dan Webb was unable to play due to a hamstring problem while Callum Donnelly and Kieran McCaffrey also remained on the sidelines. Lewis Rolfe replaced Webb while Connor Vincent came in for Brett Donnelly. Jay Dowie was back from his suspension and Jack Green was on the bench.
It was no surprise that Kings Lynn made a fast start putting Hitchin under pressure in the first quarter of the game but Hitchin soon settled in to the game, defending well and creating chances of their own. Indeed they had the best chances of the first half. Lucas Kirkpatrick had a shot cleared off the line in the 11th minute while Jonny McNamara was dispossessed by goalkeeper Alex Street when he was running at goal.
Hitchin were looking comfortable and well organised as half time approached. Kings Lynn had not really threatened and the game was evenly poised. But then one minute in to injury time the game’s defining moment occurred. Rolfe was guilty of deliberately treading on Street’s back and the incident was seen by the two assistants who advised the referee and a red card was shown. Rolfe has had his fair share of disciplinary problems and was sent off in the play off final and this was a needless transgression in the opposition penalty area. He really let the team down as Hitchin were forced to reshuffle for the second half. Charlie Smith moved to left back with Ben Walster going in to central defence.
Rolfe sees red
Hitchin did start the second half well but the numerical advantage Kings Lynn enjoyed was always going to count. Craig Parker broke Hitchin’s resistance after 56 minutes leaving a mountain to be climbed. Michael Johnson made a good save with his feet from Michael Clunan but Hitchin made positive substitutions with Green, Donnelly and Trey Charles coming on. But a well worked move saw the prolific Michael Gash put the game to bed after 75 minutes.
Holt and Lappin made minimal impact and Hitchin still carried a threat with Charles coming close but Kings Lynn were well organised to see the game through. It was so frustrating that the sending off turned the game as Hitchin were playing with the confidence their 6 game unbeaten run had instilled in them. Rolfe will now be suspended for 3 games and will hopefully have learned a painful lesson.
Kings Lynn – Street, Norman, Blake-Tracy, Gaughran, Ward, Fryatt, Clunan, Jarvis, Gash, Parker, Hawkins; Subs Siddons for Gash 86, Holt for Hawkins 72, Lappin for Parker 81, McQuaid, Hilliard.
Hitchin – Johnson, Cotter, Walster, Rolfe, Dowie, Bickerstaff, Kirkpatrick, Smith, Vincent, Bailey, McNamara; Subs B Donnelly for Vincent 70, Green for McNamara 63, Charles for Bailey 70, Tshikala, Bennett.
Kings Lynn – Parker and Gash
Hitchin – Rolfe
Kings Lynn – Fryatt and Gaughran
Hitchin – Walster and B Donnelly
Attendance – 1,067