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Hitchin Town 2 Banbury United 0

Saturday, March 28 2009

Action from Hitchin v Banbury- photo by Geoff TomassonTwo outstanding second half goals set the Canaries on their way to a victory that may be the one that convinces people that the great escape from relegation is well and truly on.

Hitchin are now three points clear of the bottom four, a position at least four clubs would give anything for in the BGB Premier Division. At the same time, the victory over similarly struggling Banbury may well have consigned the Oxfordshire side to the drop - they have far less game in which to turn things around.

If Paul Olima had taken his two early chances, then the Canaries would not have had to wait until the second period for their match-winning goals. Olima saw one shot deflected and a header sail wide as Hitchin tried to gain a quick advantage. But if goalkeeper Martin Bennett had not been on his best form, Banbury might have taken the lead. Bennett pulled off an acrobatic save from a George Redknap shot and then showed his diversity by blocking efforts from David Stone and Jon Gardner.

Just before the break, Jeff Hammond, who had an uncharacteristically quiet game, had the opportunity to break the deadlock when he beat Banbury keeper Joe Murrill to the ball and, leaving him on the by-line, honed in on goal, only for veteran striker Howard Forinton to rob him as he was about to shoot.

The other side of the interval, Banbury thought they had taken the lead when Ollie Stanbridge headed home from close range, but the assistant referee’s flag was already flapping wildly to indicate offside, much to the disgust of a small, if noisy, band of Banbury fans.

The turning point came in the 67th minute when Banbury defender Ben Milner was red-carded after stopping an in-full-flight Ieuan Lewis. Banbury received double punishment when Hitchin substitute Liam George flighted a superb free kick into the net.

If that wasn’t a big enough blow to the visitors, Hitchin scored another goal within 60 seconds and it was a substitute who did the damage once more. Almost from the kick off, Mark Barnes received the ball and despite a challenge, sent a 30 yarder drive past Murrill.

Banbury were finished - in the second half they rarely looked capable of challenging that lead and Hitchin might have added more, notably when Murrill’s clearance rebounded off Barnes and rolled wide of the goal.

There are still eight games to go, and there could be more twists in the plot, but Hitchin are in a far better position than they were four games ago. Can they do it? The smart money says they can…

Hitchin Town (0)2 Banbury United (0)0

Hitchin: Bennett, Rose, Pepper, Munday, Olima, Williams, Lewis, Stupple (E’Beyer 65), Hammond, Shittu (M.Barnes h/t), Boateng (George h/t)

Scorers: George 68, M.Barnes 69

Banbury: Murrill, Stringfellow, Stanbridge, Milner, Bennett, Redknap, Bridges (Travers 81), Forinton, Stone, Gordon, Gardner (Hainsley 69)

Attendance: 314

Referee: A.Degarin

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