When you play a cup game only one thing really matters – that you are in the draw for the next round. The quality of the performance, the entertainment value, the enjoyment of the spectators are irrelevant as long as you progress and for that reason this was mission completed for Hitchin. It was an instantly forgettable game played in bitterly cold conditions. The pitch got more difficult the longer the game went on as it got more uneven and began to freeze over. Attempts to play free flowing football were doomed to failure but Hitchin achieved their first win in 2018 courtesy of goals by Brett Donnelly and Conor Vincent.
Only 105 brave souls made the trip to Top Field for this BigfreeBet.Com Cup quarter final. Hitchin made just the one change from Saturday with Donnelly starting in place of Vincent with Mark Burke continuing with three centre backs and two wing backs. Little happened early on until the best piece of quality from the whole evening saw Hitchin take the lead after 14 minutes. It was an excellent move and started with Josh Bickerstaff finding Charlie Smith. He in turn produced a probing pass to Donnelly who finished with aplomb.
The rest of the half produced little quality in the worsening conditions but Donnelly did set up Robbie Burns after 41 minutes but he shot over the bar.
The poor run Hitchin have been on saw some anxiety in their play in the second half but Michael Johnson only had one real moment of danger when he was quickly off his line to thwart Jake Newman after 52 minutes.
The game was eventually made safe in the 89th minute when substitute Patrick Tshikala produced a shot that keeper Martin Conway fumbled and Vincent was on hand to add the finish.
Overall Hitchin certainly deserved to win and a semi-final means the season is still very much alive. The result can only help to restore the confidence that has been lacking recently and a clean sheet is a further bonus.
Hitchin Town – Johnson, James, Syme, Rolfe, Webb, Byrne, Kirkpatrick, Smith, Donnelly, Burns, Bickerstaff Subs Vincent for Smith 69, Charles, Walster, Tshikala for Donnelly 79.
Kempston Rovers – Conway, Goodman, Mercer, Boland, Simpson, Collard, Tshikuna, Heneghan, Newman, Ivy, Fuller Subs Knox, Acquage for Ivy 58, Stoyles for Collard 81.
Scorers – Donnelly 14 and Vincent 89.
Hitchin Town – Webb and Johnson
Kempston Rovers – Simpson and Newman