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Tiverton Town 1 Hitchin Town 0

Monday, March 24 2008

Hitchin's resurgence in recent weeks has been inspired by a handful of new players who have clearly made a difference to the Canaries' bid to stay up this season. At Tiverton, three of the four most influential of those players, Ieuan Lewis, Mark Smith and Luke Gregson, were unable to make a contribution and as a result, a depleted Hitchin side floundered in Devon.

Lewis was unavailable, Smith was injured and sat on the bench and Gregson left the action early on with an injury that may keep him out for the next few weeks. Little wonder that the Hitchin side that played against Tiverton lacked the verve of their recent epic battle with Kings Lynn.

But there were some positives - Martin Bennett, until this season an unknown goalkeeper, put on a terrific display that kept Tiverton at bay with a string of outstanding saves. On the evidence of this display, Bennett has a big part to play in the future of the club.

But Hitchin had the best chance of the early stages, Paul Barnes striking a post from a Mark Ducket free kick. By that time, Gregson had limped off with a gashed thigh and a lump the size of a small football growing by the second. "At worst he won't play again this season," said Darran Hay after the game. "At best he will be back in a fortnight."

Tiverton took the lead after 30 minutes, Simon Bochenski turning the ball home after Bennett had done well to keep out a close range effort from Tom Knighton.

The second half was far better from Hitchin's point of view, with Hay coming on to add some beef to the frontline. Jon Stevenson almost netted in his own net when he lobbed the ball back to Bennett but saw his pass just clear the goal.

At the other end, Gordon Barr, Hitchin's most productive forward, nearly scored when he sent the ball goalwards but saw his effort cleared off the line. A long range shot by Tom Pepper and another chance for Barr, a header that Tiverton goalkeeper Martin Horsell tipped over, threatened to produce an equaliser for Hitchin.

But at the end of the day, Hitchin had to thank Bennett for his acrobatics in preventing Tiverton from scoring again.

Hitchin continued to press, without much success against a defence that refused to yield. Time ran out and the results didn't go Hitchin's way, either. There will be many twists before this drama is played out at the end of April.

Tiverton: Horsell, O'Brien (Veale 83), Vinnicombe, Villis, Faux, Gardner, Bye, Hopkinson, Bochenski, Fraser, Knighton (Wyatt 85)

Hitchin: Bennett, Deeney, Pepper, Williams, Stevenson, Gilbert, Barr, Gregson (Kenneford 11 - Davies 76), P.Barnes, M.Barnes (Hay h/t), Ducket

Referee: B.Huxtable

Attendance: 371

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