Yet again the Monday night replay curse struck as Hitchin were knocked out of the F A Cup on penalties by Haringey Borough. In truth it was a very poor game and there can be no denying that Hitchin were well short of the standard their supporters have been used to over the last two seasons.
Manager Mark Burke did not hide his frustration. He said, “I was bitterly disappointed with the result and the performance and we have missed a great opportunity to progress in the F A Cup. While we are missing players through injuries, the squad should be good enough to compete and play at this level. We are currently not performing as I would expect us to and we need to return to basics and start again so the players regain their confidence. I urge our loyal supporters to be patient while we go through this period of confidence building and we must look forward not back.”
Indeed the lack of confidence was really apparent as simple passes went astray on a regular basis. Players who excelled last season are struggling to regain that level. Key players have left but the season has been disrupted by so many injuries and absences. The season started with a central defensive crisis but now there was only one fit striker in Liam Brooks for the Haringey game as Brett Donnelly, Connor Vincent and Elliott Bailey were ruled out. Trey Charles was in a free role behind Brooks in a 3-5-2 formation with Toby Syme replacing Ben Walster.
Haringey were certainly robust and were lucky they came across a referee who took leniency to new levels. How one of their players stayed on the pitch after punching Lewis Rolfe is difficult to fathom and this was in the 11th minute so definitely affected the game. Hitchin had made a reasonable start with Charles and Callum Donnelly coming close before Charles was blocked by a last ditch challenge. Brooks then shot too hastily and well wide.
Haringey took the lead after a long throw found its way to Chris Benjamin who scored at the far post. Donnelly equalised on 32 minutes after a good move involving Jay Dowie and Josh Bickerstaff but thereafter the quality of the game went downhill and in the second half and through extra time the two goalkeepers had little to do. From a long way out penalties seemed a certainty and there was always a danger the game would get out of hand as the referee bemused supporters with some bizarre decisions.
Bickerstaff had Hitchin’s best chance after 61 minutes but shot well over the bar when more composure was needed. But the second half and extra time were poor quality as neither side looked capable of breaking the deadlock.
Hitchin’s record in penalty shoot-outs has been excellent recently but a number of the usual takers were not available. Rolfe and Bickerstaff missed the first two with Haringey converting their first two. Then Brooks scored and Michael Johnson saved and with Dowie also scoring it was 2-2. But Haringey scored their fourth before Johnson missed to make it 3-2 for the visitors.
The celebrations of the Haringey players seemed to be well over the top as they appeared to taunt the Hitchin supporters in rushing behind the goal. Again the referee did not intervene and this was a sad end to a disappointing evening.
Hitchin – Johnson, Syme, Bickerstaff, Rolfe,Webb, Roberts, Kirkpatrick, C Donnelly, Brooks, Charles, Dowie; Subs – Green for Charles 90+2, Bennett, Walster, Smith for Kirkpatrick, Goode for Roberts 99, Clifton, Barnes
Haringey – Pajetat, Luke, Olufemi, Djassi-Sambu, Richards, Yiga, Aristidou, Kay, Gabriel, Benjamin, McDonald; Subs – Ademiluyi for Aristidou 58, Coley for McDonald 93, O’Donoghue, Benjamin for Djassi- Sambu, 98
Hitchin – C Donnelly 32
Haringey – Benjamin 21
Hitchin – Syme, Rolfe, Dowie
Haringey – Pajetat, Djassi-Sambu, Yiga
Attendance – 201