Hitchin suffered a disappointing defeat at Banbury despite having much the better of the first half. There were two changes from last Saturday with the injured Connor Vincent and unavailable Charlie Smith replaced by Brett Donnelly and Elliot Bailey while Robbie Burns was named among the substitutes.
Hitchin made a good positive start and dominated the opening quarter of the game. Jay Dowie shot over the bar after a Donnelly lay off before Trey Charles did not produce a good finish after a promising run. Charles then hit the bar with a cross cum shot while McNamara shot weakly after 21 minutes. Banbury produced their first dangerous moment when Tom Winters hit the bar after the referee chose not to give a foul on Kavan Cotter before Bailey put a shot wide soon after.
Michael Johnson was quickly off his line to close down Elliot Sandy who shot wide before McNamara produced a dangerous cross cum shot that nobody managed to get on the end of just before half time. Hitchin would have felt they should have made more of their superiority in the first half but they did not produce the clinical finishing that was so in evidence against Kings Langley.
The second half saw Banbury introduce Leam Howards on the left hand side and he made an immediate impact. After just two minutes he made a good run and put in a good cross that was finished by Jack Self. Manager Mark Burke was unhappy with the Hitchin defending for this goal and it definitely lifted the spirits of the Banbury team who were much better than in the first half. Johnson – who had a good game throughout – pulled off good saves from Conor McDonagh and Howards. Burke then replaced Donnelly with Burns after an hour with Bailey going up top with Burns playing in midfield.
After 70 minutes Howards was shown a straight red card for a late tackle on Dowie and this gave Hitchin a boost but despite increased pressure the equaliser would not come. Ben Walster replaced the injured Toby Syme and Josh Coley came on for Charles as Hitchin pushed forward. Josh Bickerstaff sent an excellent ball across the box but the finishing touch was not applied. Then Bailey shot just over the bar after good work from McNamara before in injury time keeper Jack Harding did well to save from a deflection off one of his defenders. In the last minute of the game Dowie put his shot too high as Banbury held on for a narrow victory.
This was a game where Hitchin played very well in the first half and should have been ahead. However the second half saw a sloppy start and despite the one man advantage Hitchin did not produce enough as they huffed and puffed without really troubling the Banbury keeper enough. Other results meant the defeat was not as damaging as it might have been in the race for the play offs but Burke will know there is little margin for error if Hitchin are to make the top five.
Banbury United – Harding, Ngathe, Hawtin, Nash, Wise, Carnell, Self, Sandy, Johnson, McDonagh, Winters; Subs – Howards for Sandy HT, Humphreys for Winters 76, MacDonald for McDonagh 89, Peake-Pijnen, Bryan.
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Cotter, Syme, Dowie, Webb, Bickerstaff, Kirkpatrick, Bailey, Donnelly, McNamara, Charles; Subs – Walster for Syme 67, Burns for Donnelly 60, Byrne, Tshikala, Coley for Charles 77.
Banbury – Self (47)
Banbury – Howards
Banbury – Ngathe, Self and MacDonald
Hitchin – Kirkpatrick
Attendance – 369