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Hitchin Town 3 Mangotsfield United 2

Saturday, March 7 2009

Canaries manager Colin Payne has been involved in three Hitchin home games so far and they have yielded 13 goals - Top Field is starting to become the place to go for entertainment!

But this win, only Hitchin’s second of the season on their own patch, could turn out to be one of the most vital of the campaign. The much-needed three points took the Canaries to within two points of Banbury United - and Payne’s men have no less than four games in hand on the Oxfordshire side.

Jeff Hammond scores for Hitchin against Mangotsfield

At times, though, it looked as if Hitchin may have thrown away the chance to gain some ground on their relegation zone rivals. Jeff Hammond had given the Canaries a seventh minute lead from the penalty spot, after Mark E’Beyer had been upended in the area, but the old problem of defensive fragility came to the fore once more as Mangotsfield came back into the game.

Mitchell Page brought the Mangos level in the 27th minute after Matt Groves initial effort had been saved by Luke Woods. It might have been a different story had Hitchin taken advantage of the late first half chances, but the two sides were still level at the interval.

While the Top Field faithful started doing their arithmetic at the break, the general view was that Hitchin could not afford to lose this game - an opinion that was endorsed by Payne after the final whistle.

Those same fans were silenced in the 59th minute when Page headed Mangotsfield in front from a corner - a goal that exposed the very problem Hitchin have had since August: the habit of conceding soft goals.

Payne decided to add more firepower to this line-up and brought on Mark Barnes and Lima George in quick succession. But it was Hammond that restored parity in the 75th minute, shrugging aside two defenders and - eventually - stabbing the ball into the net.

But that man Page could have put Mangotsfield ahead once more when he was clear in a one-on-one situation. Thankfully, Luke Woods stopped his effort.

In the 81st minute, Hitchin grabbed the winning goal. Hammond - rapidly becoming a favourite - sent the ball in from the byline and Barnes applied the sort of footwork that the great Denis Law would have been proud of. Barnes removed his shirt, earning himself a booking, but the importance of his goal may be celebrated long into the summer if Payne and his charges pull off another relegation escape. All of Top Field is holding its breath!

Hitchin Town (1)3 Mangotsfield United (1)2

Hitchin: Woods, Pepper, Grinham (Rose 58), Munday (M.Barnes 59), McDevitt, Williams, Lewis, E’Beyer, Hammond, Olima, Stupple (George 62)

Scorers: Hammond 7 (pen), 75 M.Barnes 81

Mangotsfield: Clapham, Arndale, Bater (Tippins 70), S.Fitzpatrick, Hendy, Barwood, Hobbs (Harris 83), Wilmot, Page, Groves, Hanin

Scorers: Page 27, 59

Attendance: 342

Referee: P.Martin

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