“They are the best side we have faced this season and they gave us a footballing lesson”. That was manager Mark Burke’s honest assessment of this 5-0 defeat at Edgar Street. Indeed Michael Johnson produced a man of the match performance in goal with a number of outstanding saves to keep the score from becoming even worse. On the day Hereford produced what their manager considered their best performance of the season and their attacking play was really outstanding.
Hitchin suffered an injury blow before the game with Kavan Cotter ruled out through injury. Jay Dowie went to right back and there were recalls for Callum Donnelly and Lucas Kirkpatrick at the expense of Jack Green and Elliot Bailey. The playing surface was very slippery after continuous rain but Hitchin started the game well. Johnson saved from the impressive Keyon Reffell before a Ben Walster free kick was saved by Martin Horsell. Then good work from Callum Donnelly led to Jonny McNamara going close and he had another shot pushed out for a corner soon after.
But Hereford took the lead when the referee wrongly awarded them a corner and Tyrone Duffuss finished at the near post. John Mills then shot over the bar from close range when he probably should have scored but Horsell then came to Herefordr’s rescue by coming smartly off his line to beat McNamara in a race for the ball. A second goal for Hereford arrived after 36 minutes when a Reffell cross was finished by Duffuss scoring his second goal of the game.
Hitchin had a chance to get back in to the game when Charlie Smith was brought down in the area but Walster slipped as he shaped to take the penalty and he skied it over the bar. Johnson then made excellent saves from Mills and the influential Garyn Preen before Hereford put the game out of reach in the last minute of the first half when poor defending left Lance Smith with an easy chance.
The second half started badly when Brett Donnelly was penalised for holding but Johnson produced a fine save to push Mill’s penalty round the post. Just two minutes later a thumping shot from Duffuss hit the bar but bounced down to safety. Johnson again came to the rescue with a brilliant double save from Duffuss and Reffell. Hereford were really impressive coming forward and the Hitchin defence had a really difficult afternoon.
Smith added his second goal after 59 minutes when he cleverly finished a free kick but the decision to award the free kick was hotly contested by the Hitchin players. Callum Donnelly was booked for a foul which was to prove costly later. Burke introduced Connor Vincent for Brett Donnelly and Bailey for Smith after 69 minutes but just a minute later Hereford added their fifth goal with Smith completing his hat trick after a brilliant move.
Bailey hit a shot high over the bar before Kirkpatrick clipped the bar from a short corner routine. Green replaced Walster but to add to a bad day Callum Donnelly received a second yellow card for dissent in the 87th minute. There was still time for another excellent save from Johnson when he denied Jamie Bird and the final whistle could not come quick enough.
While Hitchin were not at their best and were found wanting defensively they did miss Kavan Cotter and with Dowie moving to right back his role as the shield in front of the back four was also a big miss. However credit has to be given to Hereford who on the day put in a really good performance. If their cup success does not prove a hindrance the will surely be in the mix for promotion. Their massive following will expect nothing less.
Hereford – Horsell, O’Shea, Pring, Purdie, Green, Deaman , Preen, Duffuss, Mills, Reffell, Smith; Subs – Page for Reffell 77, Symons, Oates for O’Shea 69, Bird for Preen 77, Harris.
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Rolfe, Walster, Dowie, Webb, Bickerstaff, Kirkpatrick, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, McNamara, Smith; Subs – Vincent for B Donnelly 69, Bailey for Smith 69, Green for Walster 77, Charles.
Hereford – Duffuss (17, 36), Smith (45, 62, 73)
Hitchin Town – C Donnelly
Hereford – Reffell and Bird
Hitchin Town – Walster
Attendance 2,104 (17 from Hitchin)