A frantic last five minutes saw the reshuffled Canaries hanging on to take the points in this Hertfordshire derby. After Patrick Tshikala doubled Hitchin’s lead with the game entering stoppage time, Mitchell Weiss clawed back one goal and there was still time for defender Arjun Jung’s last gasp header to be ruled offside!
Hitchin fielded a line-up that was very different to Saturday’s starting eleven, with Dan Webb and Ben Walster rested, and Matt Spring, Jonny McNamara and Trey Charles on the bench.In their place Kevin Byrne and skipper Lewis Rolfe were in central defence while Daniel Olaniran made his first start at left back, Patrick Tshikala started on the right flank while Jack Green returned after injury having gained game time at Berkhamsted.
Green started positively, winning a corner from which Rolfe tested debutant home goalkeeper Lewis Hodgins. Both keepers were kept busy as Michael Johnson kept Hitchin in the game when Josh Coldicott-Stevens slipped a pass through to Gareth Price. The forward tried to place the ball wide of Johnson but the keeper got a hand to the shot and turned it away.
Green came closest to breaking the deadlock after twenty five minutes as he cut inside and blasted his shot against the crossbar. At the other end Mitchell Weiss and Price were the main threats for Langley and the latter was put through on goal again only for Toby Syme to make a timely tackle. The Hitchin full back then created two half chances for Donnelly – the first cleared off the line and the second saved by Hodgins.
However straight after the break, Syme took matters into his own hands to break the deadlock. On 48 minutes, his cross from the right floated over the head of Hodgins and into the far corner of the net.
Langley pushed for a leveller as Weiss struck the outside of Johnson’s post while Louie Collier wasted a good chance when well placed in front of goal. However the Canary defence remained solid with Rolfe and Johnson both audibly marshalling their colleagues.
Hitchin brought Spring on to replace Lucas Kirkpatrick who had taken a knock, while also giving a debut to Dessie Da Silva for Donnelly who had just shot wide. Da Silva also shot wide, both chances were created by the industrious Connor Vincent.
The two keepers kept the score down with Johnson denying Weiss again, while Hodgins pulled off a great one-handed save to keep out a Vincent header. Just when it looked like a 1-0 win, Hitchin doubled their lead. A Charlie Smith free kick was nodded back at the far post by Josh Bickerstaff and was volleyed home by Tshikala – whose only previous goal had also been at Kings Langley!
However the hosts were not daunted and Weiss finally got his reward deep in stoppage time as the Canaries switched off. They were then nearly made to pay dearly but Johnson pulled off one final save before Arjun Jung’s diving header convinced Langley that they had levelled, only to find that the offside flag had gone up.
The match will have given Mark Burke some more food for thought ahead of Wednesday’s cup final against Didcot, although that is offset by the knock to Kirkpatrick, an injury that has kept Robbie Burns out of the Easter fixtures, and Donnelly’s impending suspension.
Kings Langley – Hodgins, Jung, Cook, Connolly, Johnson, Godfrey, Ward, Coldicott-Stevens, Weiss, Collier, Price; subs – Minchev, Toiny-Pendred (for Coldicott-Stevens), Kenny (for Collier), Collins (for Price), Gauge
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Syme, Olaniran, Rolfe, Byrne, Kirkpatrick, Tshikala, Smith, Vincent, Donnelly, Green; subs – McNamara, Spring, Da Silva (for Donnelly), Charles, Bickerstaff (for Kirkpatrick)
Kings Langley – Weiss (90+2)
Hitchin Town – Syme (48), Tshikala (90+1)
Hitchin Town – Bickerstaff
Attendance – 242