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Hemel Hempstead 0 Hitchin Town 0

Saturday, April 12 2014

Manager Mark Burke has never been afraid to change systems this season and at Hemel Hempstead he produced another variation. Facing the potential champions who had already scored 120 league goals and with Hitchin playing their fourth game in eight days Mark decided to be defensively secure. To this end he set the team up with a 5-2-1-2 formation which saw Dan Webb, Alasan Ann and Stuart Pearson playing as three centre backs and Lewis Rolfe and Josh Bickerstaff as full backs. Charlie Smith and Callum Donnelly were the holding midfield players leaving Matt Lench licence to play a free role behind Simon Martin and Michael King up front. The system worked a treat as Hitchin defended heroically and limited Hemel to vary few clear cut chances. 


Every player put in a tremendous shift despite their leg weariness from the punishing fixture schedule and a draw was a deserved reward and it meant Hitchin took 4 points from Hemel this season. While Hitchin created few clear cut chances they were prepared to try and take the game to Hemel and Lench was always a source of danger while King also did well. 

The prolific Ben Mackey shot wide after 7 and 37 minutes while Jordan Parkes  shot over the bar but in truth Tahj Bell, whose handling was exemplary throughout, was rarely troubled. King produced a weak shot from a Lench through ball with Hitchin's best first half chance and the first half ended scoreless. 


Hemel made two second half changes bringing on Lewis Toomey and Dave Pearce and Toomey certainly improved their attacking play. But Hitchin started the half well and Martin put a good Lench cross just wide after 48 minutes. Martin was injured soon after and was replaced by Shaun OkojieLench had a lob just go over the bar but Hemel then began to increase the pressure. King was replaced by Sam Barker making a welcome return from injury and Hitchin had to dig really deep to keep Hemel at bay. But the defending was excellent and again Bell was not over troubled. Toomey and Luke Allen both failed to get a touch to a dangerous cross while Pearson was booked for tripping David Hutton on the edge of the area. 


Garry Jones replaced the injured Donnelly and Lench headed a Bickerstaff cross just wide. The last few minutes saw Hemel getting more desperate for the breakthrough but Hitchin were not to be denied. Bell made the save of the game tipping over a Parkes shot before spilling a cross but the loose ball was cleared. The referee added on an agonising 5 minutes of stoppage time but Hitchin held on to get the draw this gutsy performance deserved. 


So a new formation  but one that worked perfectly and it showed how flexible the management team are prepared to be. There is no respite for the weary players though as they face games Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Monday meaning 8 games in just 17 days--who would be a non league footballer! 



Hitchin  Bell, Rolfe, Bickerstaff, Ann, Webb, Pearson, Smith, Donnelly, Martin, King, Lench  Subs Barker for King 67, Okojie for Martin 50, Jones for Donnelly 78 


Hemel  Walker, King, Connolly, Parkes, Murphy, Diarra, Talbot, Allen, Gilbert, Mackey, Thorne  Subs  Hutton for King 70, Pearce for Thorne 46, Toomey for Gilbert 46, May, Tokarczyk 


Attendance 775  


Bookings  Hitchin  Pearson  Hemel  None 


Roy Izzard 

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