Hitchin’s seven game unbeaten run came to a disappointing end at Royston on Boxing Day.
The game had a 1.00pm kick off but unfortunately Hitchin did not really start playing until 1.15pm by which time they were 2-0 down. On Tuesday Hitchin had played at a really high tempo but at Royston they made a lethargic start letting Royston dominate the opening quarter and despite improving as the game went on the damage was done in the opening period.
Mark Burke had unsurprisingly named an unchanged team with Elliot Bailey, Brett Donnelly and Charlie Smith on the bench. But Royston took the lead after just six minutes when Lewis Rolfe’s header did not reach Michael Johnson leaving Adam Marriott a simple chance.
It got worse in the tenth minute when Hitchin conceded a cheap free kick which was floated in by Lee Chappell and Scott Bridges was alert to provide the finishing touch. It had been a really disastrous start by Hitchin and they left themselves a mountain to climb against a very experienced Royston team.
Hitchin looked unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Jonny McNamara was brought down with the referee deciding it was just outside the area, a decision that was disputed by those nearest the incident. It nearly got worse for the Canaries when a cross from Bridges went right across the Hitchin area but no Royston player could make contact.
Dan Webb came close after half an hour following a Kavan Cotter free kick and Hitchin were back in the game after 32 minutes. Josh Bickerstaff did really well on the left wing and delivered a great cross that Trey Charles finished at the far post. Jay Dowie overran the ball when put through by McNamara and Royston survived a goal mouth scramble just before half time.
Ex Hitchin legend John Frendo had a quiet first half but did fire over the bar after 38 minutes. Hitchin reached half time 2-1 down but the game was still very much in the balance. The second half saw Hitchin create a number of chances but they could not take advantage despite their dominance
In just the first minute Charles shot wide and soon after shot over the bar. Royston had the ball in the net after 49 minutes only for it to be disallowed for offside but this showed they were still a threat. Lewis Rolfe was then booked for a foul which seemed harsh when the referee had been lenient with other transgressions and allowed blatant timewasting by Royston to go unpunished.
McNamara shot over the bar before Hitchin made a double change with Bailey and Smith replacing Dowie and Lucas Kirkpatrick. Charles had a header well saved by Josh Tibbets but at the other end Johnson made an equally good save from Marriott. Then McNamara was thwarted by Tibbets as he ran clear of the defence.
The equaliser just would not come as Charles and Vincent both missed the target. Then Rolfe was penalised for a foul near the touchline and the referee brandished a second yellow card meaning Hitchin played out the last few minutes with ten men. The final chance fell to Charles who put his shot over the bar.
So Hitchin were made to pay for their poor start to this game and it showed that you can never take your foot off the pedal in this league without facing the consequences. The large Hitchin following were left disappointed and Hitchin must now return to winning ways when Kings Langley visit on Saturday as they try and make up the ground to the play off positions.
ROYSTON – Tibbets, Asafu-Adjaye, Chappell, Bridges, Murray, Darling, Potton, Corcoran, Frendo, Thomas, Marriott; Subs – Brathwaite for Murray 50, Castiglione, Oyinsan for Corcoran 58, Powell, Scott-Morriss for Frendo 68
HITCHIN – Johnson, Cotter, Syme, Rolfe, Webb, Bickerstaff, Dowie, Kirkpatrick, Vincent, McNamara, Charles; Subs – Donnelly for Syme 88, Bailey for Dowie 68, Smith for Kirkpatrick 68.
ROYSTON – Marriott and Bridges
HITCHIN – Charles
HITCHIN – Rolfe 2 yellows
BOOKINGS – None
ATTENDANCE – 493