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Hitchin Town 2 Bedford Town 2

Saturday, March 22 2008

Both Hitchin and Bedford will consider that local pride was kept intact in an action-packed game that could have been won by either side.

Sadly, the talking point of the game will be sending off of former Hitchin striker Josh Sozzo, who returned to his old club for the second time this season and was involved in controversy. Sozzo was sent off for a lunging tackle on David Deeney, just months after he was instrumental in breaking a Hitchin player's leg with his previous club, Hemel Hempstead.

It was an unfortunate distraction, for the game itself was rich in entertainment and warmed the near-700 crowd on a bitterly cold afternoon. And with Sozzo on for 90 minutes, Bedford may well have secured all three points.

Hitchin took the lead after five minutes when Paul Barnes glanced his header from Deeney's corner into the top corner of the net. It was the perfect start for the Canaries, but Bedford recovered well and within 20 minutes, they had completely turned the game on its head.

Sozzo equalised for Bedford when he received the ball just inside the area and rifled a shot that took a slight deflection before finding the back of the net.

Four minutes later, Bedford went ahead when Ian Draycott headed home at the far post from a corner.

But Hitchin's confidence is high these days and they came immediately back into contention. Jon Stevenson had a shot cleared off the line by Rob Miller and two minutes before the break, they pulled level once more. Deeney sent over a cross from the right and Paul Barnes was on hand to volley past Andrew Stevens from close range.

Then Sozzo received his marching orders, the referee showing a straight red for what looked like a vicious tackle. Hitchin were still protesting when the whistle went for half-time.

Bedford regrouped and substitute Andrew Philips went close to restoring their lead when he was set clear in the 46th minute but shot wide.

While Bedford looked dangerous on the break, Hitchin dominated and were camped in the visitors half. Corner after corner rained in on the Bedford goal, but goalkeeper Stevens, who had a shaky start, was in outstanding form. Mark Ducket struck the top of the crossbar with a corner and Moses Olaleye should have done better after being teed-up by Luke Gregson. Stevens excelled when he stopped a Mark Barnes volley.

Right at the death, Draycott might have won it for Bedford, but Bennett smothered his shot, and Paul Barnes had another chance that very nearly found the back of the net. "We should have won, but we might have lost it," said Darran Hay. "We've played better but I guess we were due a below-par performance."

Hitchin: Bennett; Deeney, Pepper, Williams, Stevenson, Smith, Olaleye (Fehmi 60); Gregson, P. Barnes, M. Barnes, Ducket (Kenneford 75)

Bedford: Stevens, Miller (Childs h/t), Lawley (Philips h/t), Darby, Grieeve, Kierans, Woolf, Stupple, Draycott, Sozzo, Sinclair

Referee: I.Rathbone

Attendance: 673


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