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Hitchin Town 2 Yate Town 1

Saturday, February 16 2008

If Hitchin are to win their battle against relegation, then they seem, at last, to have a team capable of achieving that goal. A reshaped Hitchin team has emerged in the past fortnight, with players like Mark Smith, Iuean Lewis, Luke Gregson and now Paul Barnes, all capable of leading the Canaries to safety.

The reaction at the end of the game, with the players running to the supporters en masse to celebrate in unison, suggests that they too believe they can climb to safety. The way Hitchin played also indicates they are up for a battle.

This was a game dominated by Darran Hay's men, and arguably their best home performance all season. The first half was lively, played at a fast and furious pace, although chances were tenuous. Paul Barnes, on his debut looked full of guile and pace. He burst through on one occasion, only to be denied by Yate goalkeeper Tony Court. Despite the lack of clear-cut chances, the first period promised much.

The second half started similarly, with Mark Bridge going close after a deft free kick from Jon Stevenson, but it was Yate that took the lead on 51 minutes. The Hitchin defence could only partially clear a Yate attack and the ball fell kindly for Mike Taylor who sent a tame shot past Ricky Perks.

But Yate were ahead for just nine minutes. A corner from Mark Ducket sailed into the area and Barnes glanced his header into the net, earning a rouse cheer from the crowd - the loudest possibly of the season. Barnes, whom many see as Hitchin's saviour in the coming weeks, certainly lived up to his billing.

There was also fresh impetus from the introduction of Marlon Campbell as substitute. The tall man, who has been at Grays, Leatherhead and Woking this season, was involved immediately, missing a one-on-one after Barnes had set him up and then threading a pass through to Lewis whose shot rolled across the face of goal.

Eight minutes from time, Hitchin secured their second goal. David Deeney hit the vital shot after Jon Stevenson had knocked the ball through a crowded area. It was enough to win the game - actually Hitchin's third in six games. On the evidence of this display, Hay's rebuilt side have a chance of pulling off the great escape.

Hitchin: Perks, Deeney (Barr 88), Pepper, Williams, Stevenson, Smith, Lewis, Gregson, Bridge (Campbell), Barnes (Mills 62), Ducket

Yate: Court, Vahid, O'Sullivan, Taylor, Jeffries, Sims (Waters 69), Blakemore (Davidge 54), Chenoweth (Smythe 83), Rawlins, Anyinsah, Williams

Attendance: 283

Referee: D.Bushell


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