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Hitchin Town 1 Hastings United 2

Monday, October 8 2012

Hitchin may never have a better opportunity to gain a glimpse of the FA Cup first round than this season. They could be forgiven for thinking that the hard work had been done in bringing Hastings back to Hitchin on an inhospitable Monday night, but it was the Sussex side that adapted to the conditions, eyed Blackfield & Langley with great opportunism and secured the fourth qualifying round prize.

A frisky fawn-like figure by the name of Bradley Goldberg did for Hitchin on a night of anti-climax at Top Field. Goldberg, son of former Crystal Palace impresario Mark, danced his way past defenders and caused problems for Hitchin all night. He switched wide instead of playing down the middle and it paid dividends.

While Hitchin bemoan their luck and lick their wounds, they may like to recall just how committed Hastings were in this game – on and off the pitch, for their officials kicked every ball and urged every tackle.

Hitchin started well, with John Frendo seeing his shot pushed into the air by Hastings keeper Armstrong-Ford, which, incidentally is not a make of vintage car, and Zak Burke typically cutting inside and hitting the side-netting.

In the 31st minute, however, Hastings scored after a seemingly obvious offside decision was called for. Goldberg skipped past the defence and rounded Martin Bennett to slide the ball into the net. Before the interval, Hastings could have added to their lead, Sean Ray going close with powerful headers on two occasions.

Hitchin were given a lifeline back in the second half when they equalized from the penalty spot. To most of the 289 crowd, it was retribution for an earlier decision that went against them. Kyle Lincoln ran into the heart of the Hastings area and as the ball ran through to Frendo, Ray upended the Canaries’ striker. Frendo got up to score from the spot kick, although Armstrong-Ford did his best to stop the ball.

But Hitchin did not take too much heart from leveling the scores and Goldberg almost restored Hastings’ lead when he dribbled into the area and sent a shot across the face of goal.

Frendo, who worked tirelessly all evening, without much joy, went close to scoring again when he sent a curling effort inches wide, but it was Hastings that dominated the closing stages.

Goldberg teed-up Attwood and the tall strike rshould really have found the back of the net instead of the advertising hoarding. In the 74th minute, though, Hastings grabbed the winner, Ray heading home with power from a corner.

Hitchin’s frustration boiled over when Lawrie Stewart received a second yellow card for dissent with a minute to go. The Canaries still had time for a late flurry and Stewart King should have done better when he shot straight at the keeper after being set clear.

Hastings enjoyed the moment and it will be no surprise if they strolled through to the first round proper – leaving Hitchin to only reflect on a huge opportunity spurned.

Attendance: 289

Hitchin: Bennett, Fontenelle, Lincoln, Stewart, Gilbert, Lee, Lewis, Gregson, Delderfield (King 81), Frendo, Burke  Subs not used: Leach, McGovern, Bickerstaff, Webb, Beckett, King

Hastings: Armstrong-Ford, Cox, Richardson, Carey, Ray, Jirbandey, Ellis, Crellin, Goldberg, Attwood, Camara (Okojie 90) Subs not used: Dixon, Upton, Whitehead

Referee: S.Pawley
Assistants: D.Steele & I.Corner



Statistics

Hitchin Town (0)1 Hastings United (1)2
0-1 Goldberg 31 mins
1-1 Frendo – pen 58 mins
1-2 Ray 74 mins



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