Hitchin cruised through this Hertfordshire derby to advance in the FA Trophy. This was a solid all-round team performance with five players getting on the scoresheet against a Cheshunt side who could not maintain their winning start under new manager Steve Newings.
With the opposition under new management, and having defeated the Canaries in their last meeting in the Herts Charity Cup, Hitchin boss Mark Burke took no liberties and fielded a strong side with strong cover on the bench.
However for 39 minutes, the game failed to spark with both teams cancelling each other out. The Ambers had a golden early chance when Kyle Roberts made space for a cross shot across the face of goal. His effort beat Hitchin’s defence to find top scorer Jason Hallett unmarked in front of goal but the forward contrived to scoop the ball over the bar!
Hitchin applied pressure on veteran keeper Richard Hayward and his defence from set pieces but Cheshunt held firm to clear early efforts from Dan Webb and Charlie Smith. Elliot Bailey fired wide after being set up by Brett Donnelly who had been closely watched, not always legally, by defender Ricky Brennan.
The Canaries had a string of corners from which Jack Green fired over, Josh Bickerstaff diverted the ball wide and then Hallett got back to clear Donnelly’s off the line. However just when it looked like the sides would go in goalless at the interval, the Canaries went goal crazy.
On 39 minutes Dan Webb was on hand to convert from a corner to break the deadlock. There was time for Hayward to save well from Donnelly after good build up by Ben Walster and Green before Green added a second on 43 minutes with an untidy but effective header at the far post. Then Donnelly squared on the edge of the area for Elliot Bailey to drill in a third to put Hitchin firmly in control of the match.
Half time – Hitchin Town 3 Cheshunt 0
Cheshunt attempted to get back into the game after the break, with Michael Johnson tidying up after Hallett tried to play in Roberts and Brennan having an effort from a corner deflected away.
However Hitchin brought Trey Charles on for Jonny McNamara and the winger ensured Hitchin pressed home their advantage. His pace meant that Cheshunt’s full back Jeramie Aghozor was less of an attacking threat, and it was Charles who set up Kavan Cotter for a run to the byeline. The defender cut back for Brett Donnelly who turned the ball home from close range for Hitchin’s 4th.
Aghozor did get the better of Charles once but his effort and the follow-up from Illsley were both blocked. However on 73 minutes Charles had the last laugh with an excellent individual goal. He picked up the ball on the right flank and jinked across the pitch before firing home Hitchin’s 5th goal from the left side.
There were to be no more goals – not least because Hayward kept Hitchin at bay. He pulled off good saves from Elliot Bailey and Callum Donnelly, who was at the heart of the approach play after coming on for Dowie, while Walster sent a free kick just wide and Charlie Smith rolled an effort wide of the keeper and the post.
While Cheshunt may be struggling this season, the Canaries did well not to let up and will now be watching the Trophy draw on Monday ahead of the 2nd Qualifying Round in two weeks time.
Full time – Hitchin Town 5 Cheshunt 0
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Cotter, Walster, Dowie, Webb, Bickerstaff, Green, Smith, B Donnelly, Bailey, McNamara; subs – Vincent (B Donnelly), Charles (McNamara), Brooks, C Donnelly (Dowie), Kirkpatrick
Cheshunt – Hayward, Clemo, Aghozor, Illsley, Brennan, O’Brien, Roberts, Kukoyi, Hallett, Osei, Wallace; subs – Osonowa (Hallett), Williamson, Anastasiou (O’Brien), Cheema (Roberts), Cooper
Hitchin Town – Webb (39), Green (43), Bailey (45), B Donnelly (61), Charles (73)
Cheshunt – Brennan
Attendance – 265
Sponsor’s MOTM – Michael Johnson