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Merthyr Tydfil 1 Hitchin Town 2

Saturday, February 18 2006

Hitchin won for the first time in their history in Wales, beating Merthyr Tydfil, a club that could have former England star Paul Gascoigne in the managerial hot seat in a week's time.
While all the pre-match chat at Merthyr may have been about the possible arrival of Gazza, Hitchin did their talking on the pitch. After one point from their two previous games, this was just what manager Darren Salton needed to prove that his side's recent improvement was no fluke.
The early stages were fought in midfield, with Hitchin holding their own against a Merthyr side that has struggled at home in recent weeks. There was a scare for the Canaries as early as the fourth minute, however, when Gary Shepherd shot wide from close range.
Hitchin went close in the 25th minute when a good cross by Daniel French just eluded his team-mates. The best chance of the half fell to Gavin Jaggard, who ran onto a through ball by Neil Pugh but saw his shot blocked by Merthyr keeper Ashley Morris.
It was Jaggard's last contribution, for at half-time he went off injured to be replaced by Stuart Lochhead.
The Canaries took the lead in the 52nd minute when Pugh picked up a loose ball and sent a 25-yard shot past Morris. Shortly afterwards, Thomas Hayes was replaced by Wayne Mills, resulting in a new frontline pairing of Mills and Lochhead.
The diminutive strikeforce performed well, though, and Lochhead saw one effort deflected for a corner. The home side sent on three substitutes in a bid to change the game, but Stuart Hammonds and the recalled James Ayres held firm at the back.
Three minutes from time, the Canaries extended their lead when Aaran Cavill broke from the halfway line, ran on and saw his shot parried by Morris but recovered to net the rebound.
In added time, Merthyr were awarded a penalty when Ayres upended Craig Steins and Shepherd scored from the spot. A few nerves in the dying seconds, but Hitchin deserved their win.
Hitchin: Wilmot, Pugh, Okai, Hammonds, Ayres, Hicks (Lamacraft 75), French, Cavill, Jaggard (Lochhead h/t), Hayes (W.Mills 62), Ducket


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