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Hitchin Town 0 Arlesey Town 1

Monday, April 25 2011

On a bizarre afternoon, outrageous scenes at the final whistle. Pitbull eyes, screaming faces and ugly aggression – the gestures directed at the Hitchin officials by three Arlesey players as they clinched the league title.

David Deeney and Derek BrownThe crowd in the main stand was shocked, particularly when a former Hitchin player –   David Deeney – decided to incite the massed ranks of the home fans. What a shame that the season should end this way. How lacking in style and grace. Is this really non-league football 2011?

It was a pity because Arlesey deserved their win, warranted praise for their immense character in chasing Hitchin and winning the title not once, but twice. “We created a siege mentality,” said manager Gary King, and he was right. They had the strength, the power and the players to win the championship. But contrary to the sentiment flying around Top Field before and after the game, Hitchin did not lose Arlesey nine points - the answer to that question, one suspects, is closer to home.

It was ironic that the best player on the pitch, the man mountain Ryan Frater, is a product of Hitchin’s youth scheme. Frater and his defensive partner, Derek Brown, one of the “directors box three”, kept Hitchin’s forwards quiet all afternoon. And what a tense afternoon it was.

The prospect of a title decider captured the imagination of the public over the Easter weekend. The attendance, 1,508 – 80% behind the Canaries – was the best at Top Field for a league game since 1994, but they were not served up a classic.
Arlesey started well, but Hitchin finished the half the stronger of the two sides. Frater went close for Arlesey when his free kick from distance was tipped over by Martin Bennett and John Frendo missed a sitter on the stroke of half-time from close range. Apart from that, the football was constantly punctuated by free kicks, petty fouls and injuries. The occasion clearly getting the better of the two teams.

One of those injuries was to Arlesey goalkeeper Richard Hayward, who collided with a goalpost in the opening minutes. Hayward appeared to recover but collapsed after the gameand was taken to hospital, putting the unpleasant scenes earlier into perspective.

The second half was little better, but it was a slip-up that gave Arlesey their winning goal on 70 minutes, struck low, and in off the post, by the impressive Stuart Sinclair – one of Arlesey’s lesser known weapons.

Hitchin didn’t seem to have an answer to the goal. With Frendo and Burke shackled, and a lack of invention in midfield, Arlesey were able to soak it all up. In fact, Chris Dillon – another hired gun with Hitchin experience – almost added a second goal for the Blues.

Hitchin's last roll of the dice fell to youngster Josh Bickerstaff, who sent a low, swerving shot against the post via Hayward’s gloves. This was a save to win the title, and a few minutes later, the whistle blew, sparking off unprecedented scenes that should have no place in sport.

Casting that aside, you have to raise your hat to Arlesey’s never-say-die approach and persistence. They proved they had the strongest squad in the league. Meanwhile, Hitchin have to do it all again this week when they face Slough Town in the play-offs. Deja vu.

Hitchin Town (0)0 Arlesey Town (0)1
                         Sinclair 70

Attendance: 1,508

Hitchin Town: Bennett, Fontenelle, Bickerstaff, Gilbert, Wordsworth (Paine 83), Lee, Howell, Donnelly (Gregson 70), Burke, Frendo, Lewis
Bookings: Lee 24, Donnelly 31 , Fontenelle 90

Arlesey Town:
Hayward, Mawer, Perpetuini, Frater, Brown, Allinson (Gray 58), Deeney, Sinclair, Dillon (Price 90), Marsh, Mason (Abbey 85)
Bookings: Allinson 31, Mawer 43, Sinclair 61
Referee: L.Marshallsay

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