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Hitchin Town 1 Barton Rovers 2

Tuesday, March 1 2011

So now, at least for a week or two, it’s advantage Arlesey. That’s what this unlikely setback, coupled with Arlesey’s 3-0 win at Atherstone, delivered on a bitterly cold night.

When Bilal Hassan’s 78th minute shot beat Martin Bennett, it cast a doubt or two about the Canaries’ title hopes. It was déjà vu for Hitchin fans – the first serious chink in the armour and for Chesham and Soham (last season’s wobbles), read Rugby and Barton.

Hitchin could not complain too much. Barton worked their socks off, hassling Hitchin whenever they could and giving the league leaders no room at all. Their management team, Dan Kennoy and the highly technical Rob Kleiser, had clearly done their homework.

Hitchin had an early warning when one of their many former players, Lee Wilson, hit the crossbar with a free kick. In the 26th minute, however, Barton took a shock lead, Andrew Iwediuno scoring after a free kick had caused some difficulties.

Barton’s keeper, the former Hitchin favourite  Richard Wilmot, pulled off a fine save from Richard Howell’s free kick and the Barton goal led a charmed life for the latter stages of the first half.

Hitchin had the chance to equalise in the 55th minute when Callum Donnelly, who worked his way into a dangerous position, was bundled over by a defender in the area. Tony Fontenelle’s penalty kick proved no problem to Wilmot, who stopped the shot with his legs.

At the opposite end, there was a let-off for the Canaries when Dean Gilbert slipped and Iwediuno was denied by Martin Bennett. But the smart money was still on a Hitchin recovery.

And in the 69th minute, that recovery gathered momentum with a smart goal. Richard Howell’s well-timed through ball had a teasing curl that found Jamie Arlick and his deft control and final touch found the back of the net – an excellent strike.

But Hitchin were not level for long. In the 78th minute, another Top Field old boy, Bilal Hassan, took advantage of a defensive slip and hit a low, hard shot that slipped beyond Bennett.

Two minutes later, Barton were reduced to 10 men as Andre Maltay’s ill-disciplined tackle on Josh Bickerstaff was duly punished. In true time-wasting fashion – a trait of Barton’s all evening – Maltay walked off with all the urgency of a Sunday promenade in Hyde Park.

Hitchin still had something left as Fontenelle struck the woodwork and Arlick’s header landed on the roof of the net, but the Canaries looked visibly deflated by the final whistle.

In 1929, Bolton Wanderers' players, took something called "nerve powder" before the FA Cup final. Hitchin may be advised to seek out a supplier of such a wonderful potion!

Hitchin: Bennett, Fontenelle, Bickerstaff, Gilbert, Wordsworth, Lee, Howell, Donnelly, Burke, Arlick, Lewis
Barton: Wilmot, Maltay, A.Iwediuno (King 73), Hull, McDevitt, Andrews, Case (Philips 81), Spencer, Hassan, Bull (Brinkman 63), Wilson
Referee: L.Betts

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