Hitchin moved in to the last sixteen of the BigFreeBet Cup with a hard earned 4-2 victory over Kings Langley. It was a dreadful evening weather wise with unrelenting rain and a strong wind making conditions difficult but full credit to the home groundsman for producing such a good playing surface in the circumstances.
It was a much changed line up compared to Saturday with all five of the substitutes starting this game while Michael Johnson, Trey Charles and Jay Dowie were not in the squad. Hitchin signed goalkeeper George Phillips on a work experience registration from Colchester United and he acquitted himself really well. He does not turn eighteen until December but showed no nerves as he replaced the injured Johnson. The back four saw Toby Syme come in at right back with Dan Webb, Josh Bickerstaff and Ben Walster retaining their places. Lucas Kirkpatrick and Lewis Rolfe were the holding midfielders with Jonny McNamara and Kavan Cotter playing wide and Callum Donnelly playing just behind Connor Vincent.
Mark Burke quite expected some rustiness as half the team were in real need of game time. In the first half Hitchin played in to the wind and up the slope which was not easy. It took a while to get to any kind of tempo because of this. Donnelly had shot wide and Kirkpatrick had a free kick blocked before Kings Langley took the lead after 22 minutes. It was a poor goal to concede with two separate errors leading to Jorrel Johnson scoring from close range.
Cotter had a good chance but was forced wide and his shot was blocked by a defender while Kirkpatrick fired just wide. A one goal deficit at half time was not a disaster as the second half would see conditions in Hitchin’s favour. Indeed Hitchin equalised in the first minute after the restart and it was an impressive goal. Cotter produced an excellent cross that Donnelly headed in at the far post. Donnelly came close again while Vincent saw a shot tipped over the bar before Webb headed home a Walster cross after 57 minutes.
Phillips made a good save from Josh Coldicott-Stevens before Vincent extended the lead with 70 minutes on the clock. He was involved in a one-two with Cotter before producing a clinical finish. Phillips again came to the rescue with another excellent save from Jay Karagozlu before Hitchin made their only substitution as Patrick Tshikala replaced Walster after 77 minutes.
Surely Tshikala produced the quickest debut goal in Hitchin’s history as within 30 seconds of entering the game he made an interception, beat a defender and finished with aplomb to put the game to bed – what an introduction! Hitchin had produced a great comeback as the rain continued to fall but Kings Langley had the last word when ex Canary Michael King produced a brilliant finish after 85 minutes.
This proved a worthwhile exercise as Hitchin extended their unbeaten record to six games and players who have spent recent games on the bench had 90 minutes of action. It means competition for places is really intense which is just what manager Burke wants as Hitchin continue to recover from their poor start to the season and look to improve their league possession while progressing in the various cup competitions.
Kings Langley – Hampton, Folarin, Adebiyi, Connolly, Tring, Johnson, Karagozlu, Coldicott-Stevens, King, Weiss, Collins; Subs – Ocran for Karagozlu 68, Hodgkins, Plowright for Tring 45, Turner, Kenny for Collins 60
Hitchin Town – Phillips, Syme, Walster, Rolfe, Webb, Bickerstaff, Kirkpatrick, C Donnelly, Vincent, McNamara, Cotter; Subs – Tshikala for Walster 77, Bailey, Smith, Green, B Donnelly
Kings Langley – Johnson 22 and King 85
Hitchin Town – C Donnelly 46, Webb 57, Vincent 70 and Tshikala 77
Bookings – None
Attendance – 126