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Hitchin Town 0 Stanway Rovers 0

Saturday, September 27 2008

Stanway Rovers came within inches of dumping Hitchin out of the FA Cup and being added to the list of ignominious exits the Canaries have suffered over the years.

The Ridgeons Eastern Counties League side, from a village just outside Colchester, put on a determined display that almost left Darran Hayís side red-faced. It didnít help that Hitchin had to play one half with 10 men after Lee Wilson was sent off towards the end of the first period.

Right from the start it was clear that Stanway were not going to let their hosts settle. The impressive Sam Newson was a constant menace and he was denied twice by goalkeeper Martin Bennett in the first half. Hitchin struggled to find their rhythm and chances were few and far between. But Paul Barnes had a good chance when Wilson crossed, but his header was mis-timed.

Hitchin started to show their frustration and in the 40th minute, Wilson appeared to elbow a Stanway player. He didnít actually connect, but the gesture was enough to earn him a hastily brandished red from referee Mr Steel.

Hitchin didnít seem to be terribly disadvantaged, in actual fact their second half performance was arguably better than when they had 11 men. Certainly the likes of Luke Gregson and Mark Barnes seemed to be enjoying the tussle.

Mark Barnes pulled the ball back from the by-line for Jon Woolf in the opening seconds of the restart but his shot was saved by Stanway keeper Michael Church. At the other end, a Ben Newson cross-cum-shot was palmed over by Bennett. Paul Barnes had a header past the post and Gregson just failed to connect with a cross as Hitchin tried to step up a gear.

But it was Stanway that finished the stronger side and in the 81st minute, Sam Newson powered his way through and shot against a post. It was a genuine scare for Hitchin and in the final minute the tall striker volleyed just inches wide. Hitchin were that close to going out of the competition!

Hitchin Town (0)0 Stanway Rovers (0)0

Hitchin: Bennett, Pepper, Wilson, Williams, Gilbert, Cox, Woolf (Sealey 59), Stupple, P.Barnes, M.Barnes (Barr 87), Gregson

Stanway: Church, Curtis, Bailey, Drennan, Sharpe, L.Norfolk (R.Norfolk), B.Newson, Burch, Callender, S.Newson, J.Harewood (Thorne 84)

Referee: J.Steel

Attendance: 293

Paul Barnes in action against Stanway

Words: Neil Jensen, Photo courtesy of Brian Gray

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