For the second time in three days, Hitchin Town fell to a side chasing promotion via the play-offs. While Kettering Town brushed the Canaries aside on Saturday, Slough Town were made to fight hard for a narrow 1-0 victory at Top Field on Monday night.
The only goal was claimed by ex-Canary Matt Lench in the 70th minute. Until that point, Hitchin had kept the game tight and denied the Rebels through a mixture of dogged defending, wayward finishing and a little luck.
Mark Burke rang the changes from Saturday’s defeat with one eye no doubt on the BigFreeBet Cup Final on Wednesday. Josh Mollison in goal was joined by Daniel Olaniran, Kevin Byrne, Hugo Logan and Patrick Tshikala.
Slough, who had secured their play-off place on Saturday, started positively with Warren Harris looking dangerous on the right flank. However, they struggled to break the deadlock and Mollison showed confident handling as he saved from Warren Harris and Lench. When he was beaten, Lewis Rolfe was on hand to clear off the line.
Hitchin had to play on the break with Tshikala chasing every long ball. The best first half chances for the hosts were a shot wide from Olaniran and an effort wide by Connor Vincent.
The second half saw further Slough pressure and Perry Coles – who had scored against the Canaries for Farnborough earlier this season – blazed over after a string of corners.
At the other end, Jake Turner pulled off the best save of the night as he tipped away a fierce free kick from Charlie Smith. However with twenty minutes to go, the vital blow was struck as substitute Chris Flood met a deep cross. His effort was on target but Lench made sure of the winning goal with the final touch.
Jonny McNamara had a chance to level almost immediately as he got past Mark Nisbet only to lose control of the ball under his feet. Then Hugo Logan fired over after good work by Smith and McNamara. Turner saved once more from Smith but there was no sting in the tail and Slough saw the game out to boost their chances of a home semi-final in the playoffs.
Hitchin – Mollison, Syme, Olaniran, Rolfe, Webb (McNamara), Byrne, Logan, Spring (Bickerstaff), Vincent (Da SIlva), Tshikala, Smith; unused subs – Coley, Barnes
Slough – Turner, Fraser, Wells, Hollis, Nisbet, Davies, Dobson, Lench, Coles (Flood), Williams, Harris; unused subs – Smart, Day, Togwell, Gilkes
Slough – Lench (70)
Hitchin – Syme, Byrne
Slough – Wells
Sponsor’s MOTM – Charlie Smith
Attendance – 321
Colin, photo – Peter Else