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Hitchin Town 1 Bury Town 0

Tuesday, August 25 2009

You have to go back to the sepia-tinted days of 1936 to trace the last time Hitchin Town won their first four league games of the season. Seventy-three years on, this game was a vital victory for the Canaries, against one of the teams that have been tipped to challenge at the top of the Zamaretto Midlands Division this season.

Manager Colin Payne seems to have found a gem in Richard Howell. Before the game, Payne said Howell was “unlucky to be on the bench”. But lucky for Hitchin he was, for Howell came on in the 57th minute and five minutes later, fired home the winner. Payne is left with a selection problem in the days ahead, but what a problem! Jeff Hammond is waiting in the wings to return after his suspension and Howell – a Conference South player at heart – is staking a big claim. Little wonder that Payne and Carl Williams are sporting grins the size of the moon at present.

This was a keenly fought game, played the right way. Bury are a good footballing side and they may feel they deserved a point. Certainly, there was little between the two sides and the season rolls on, the result may look even better for the Canaries.

Hitchin didn’t really come alive until the latter part of the first half, a series of crosses causing problems. Carl Williams sent a teasing ball over from the right but Steve Velandia just failed to connect and then on the stroke of half-time, Tony Fontenelle drilled a low ball across the face of goal with nobody able to force their way through. In between, Bury’s dangerous striker, Andrew Tidswell, volleyed just inches wide.

Hitchin tested the Bury keeper, Marcus Garnham early on in the second period, a Luke Donnelly long range effort rolling just wide and a Velandia corner being palmed over the bar.

The turning point came in the 62nd minute when Howell received the ball just inside the Bury half, ran on a placed his shot wide of Garnham.

The visitors came again, however, and Tidswell’s near post strike brought out a fine save from Martin Bennett. Then Sam Reed went on a long run before fluffing his shot in front of goal. Ben Coker, too, had a chance which was wide of the mark.

These were nervous moments for Hitchin, but there was relief in the dying second as both Howell and Zak Burke had long-distance efforts that threatened to add to the Canaries tally.

There was some relief at the final whistle, but the underlying feeling was that Hitchin had gained an advantage over one of their closest rivals in this vital season for everyone at Top Field.

There was also good news for club officials in the form of a healthy 330 crowd- perhaps the Hitchin public already sense that this could be an enjoyable season for the Canaries.

Hitchin Town (0)1 Bury Town (0)0

1-0 Howell 62 mins

Hitchin: Bennett, Fontenelle, Payne, Williams, Smith, Gilbert, Lewis, L.Donnelly (Howell 57), Arlick, Velandia (Lee 81), Burke
Bury Town: Garnham, Hunter, Sloots, Kearns (Kelly 69), Short, Bullard, L.Reed (Hipperson 83), Steward, S.Reed, Tidswell, Coker

Attendance: 330 (approx. 30 from Bury)
Referee: J.Steel

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