As this game ended “That’s Entertainment” by The Jam was played over the P.A. system and what an appropriate choice this was as this was an incredible game full of entertainment. It was a game that had a bit of everything with seven goals, seven bookings, a disputed red card, a penalty, Hitchin going 3-0 ahead but then Frome fighting back to 3-3, Hitchin immediately retaking the lead, a goalkeeper coming close to scoring and a refereeing performance that exasperated both teams in an action packed 90 minutes with a further six minutes of stoppage time to add to the tension!
Hitchin made the long trek to Frome with low expectations as an injury crisis had decimated manager Mark Burke’s options to the extent that the squad was down to the bare bones. On the bench Hitchin could only name three substitutes –Trey Charles who was not fit enough to play a full game, Kieran Barnes who had been recalled from Stotfold and Academy player Desejado Da Silva who has yet to make his debut. Kavan Cotter, Jack Green and Jay Dowie were out injured along with Kieran McCaffrey while Ben Walster was suspended and Callum Donnelly had left the club (he would have been suspended anyway). Burke reshaped the back four with Toby Syme coming in at right back and Josh Bickerstaff moving to left back with Lewis Rolfe partnering Dan Webb in central defence. Elliot Bailey played on the right in midfield with Jonny McNamara on the left and Lucas Kirkpatrick and Charlie Smith playing centrally while Connor Vincent played just behind Brett Donnelly up front.
The pitch was not conducive to passing football as it was sticky with the grass quite long and very often players needed to dig the ball out. But despite their problems Hitchin made a confident start. In just the fourth minute Vincent turned sharply to force a good save from Kyle Phillips after a good lay off from Donnelly. Smith produced a long range shot on target but Michael Johnson then made a good save from Ollie Knight.
Hitchin went ahead after 13 minutes and it followed a sharp move involving McNamara and Bickerstaff which ended with the ball reaching Bailey and he produced a brilliant finish from 20 yards. Bailey seems to have the knack of scoring memorable goals and this was his eleventh goal of the season. Johnson saved a free kick from George Miller before the referee Martin Underhay made his first intervention booking Donnelly and Johnson in quick succession. After Webb was just wide from a McNamara cross Vincent went in the book for reasons only Mr Underhay could explain.
Hitchin got their second goal after a Smith corner found Bickerstaff whose shot was dummied by Vincent leaving Phillips unsighted and it got even better for Hitchin two minutes later when Syme found Donnelly who set up Vincent for an assured finish. To be 3-0 up with the makeshift nature of the team was beyond all expectations but unfortunately in the 45th minute Smith was adjudged to have brought down Jon Davies. Davies took the penalty himself and sent Johnson the wrong way to give Frome some hope for the second half.
Donnelly was injured and replaced by Charles after 56 minutes. It may have been a blessing as with a card happy ref Brett was going to be walking a tightrope having already been booked. After 70 minutes Mr Underhay produced a straight red card for a challenge by Mitchell Page on Webb. He indicated it was for a deliberate elbow but both sides thought the decision harsh. Rather than deflate Frome the red card had the opposite affect and they decided to throw caution to the wind and play an all out attacking game. After 77 minutes a free kick was headed home by the unmarked Chas Hemmings to really put the pressure on Hitchin and then three minutes later Miller finished from close range after Hemmings had headed across goal.
It seemed the momentum would now be with Frome but Hitchin bravely fought back and in the next minute Vincent unleashed a magnificent shot from 20 yards giving Phillips no chance. This set Frome back but they did not give up and goalkeeper Phillips went up for corners shooting just wide in the second of six minutes of added time. But Hitchin dug in and fully deserved the three points with a good all round team performance that showed no hangover from the Hereford defeat last week. The small band of Hitchin supporters could rightfully feel proud of their team’s guts and determination at a venue where it is never easy to get a result. It was a much needed away win as Hitchin had only been successful once in their previous nine away league games although it should be pointed out that four of these games were against top six teams. Hopefully Hitchin can now go on another unbeaten run and there is still plenty to play for this season.
Frome Town – Phillips, Miller, Withey, Teale, Page, Hemmings, Davies, Miller, Jackson, Raynes, Knight; Subs – Bath for Miller 85, Griffiths, Morgan, Cleverly
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Syme, Bickerstaff, Rolfe, Webb, Kirkpatrick, Bailey, Vincent, Donnelly, McNamara, Smith; Subs – Charles for Donnelly 56, Barnes, Da Silva.
Frome Town – Davies pen, Hemmings, Miller
Hitchin Town – Bailey, Bickerstaff and Vincent 2
Frome Town – Page
Frome Town – Knight, Teale and Page
Hitchin Town – Donnelly, Johnson, Vincent and Syme