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Hitchin Town 2 Hemel Hempstead Town 0

Saturday, August 17 2013

This was one that the doom and gloom mongers didn’t expect – a Hitchin win against one of the more fancied teams in the Calor Premier, reports Neil Jensen.

Photo: Peter ElseThe result proved a couple of things: pre-season results count for little when you are in a period of transition; and the difference in quality between players that supposedly command “top dollar” and the rest is not as big as the reported cash differential.

The teams were:

Hitchin: Bennett, Rolfe, Bickerstaff, Webb (Ann 5), Pearson, Lowe, McGeorge, Donnelly (King 83), Martin, Burns, Noone

Hemel: Walker, King, Parsons, Thorne, Murphy, Diarra, Campana (Mpi 59), Parkes, Pearce, Toomey (Hawkins 63), Mackey (Hutton 67)

Referee: P.Forrester

Hitchin pulled off a surprisingly comfortable win against Hemel Hempstead who failed to live up to their billing as title contenders.

The much-changed Canaries' side shrugged aside its summer problems to give new manager Mark Burke a winning start. His team enjoyed the better of the first half with new signing Simon Martin and on-loan striker Jamal Lowe causing the Hemel defence problems.

Lowe's pace almost gave Hitchin a sixth minute lead when he accelerated past two defenders and prodded the ball just wide of the goal. He then created a chance for Robbie Burns but the former Nuneaton player couldn't quite connect in front of goal.

Callum Donnelly also went close for Hitchin when he received a long ball from Lewis Rolfe and then saw his snap shot pushed wide by Hemel goalkeeper Laurie Walker.

Hitchin went ahead, however, in the 24th minute when Martin teed-up Burns and he shot home from 10 yards.

It was not until the dying seconds of the first half that Hemel threatened the Hitchin goal, a long range shot by Ollie Thorne being fumbled by Martin Bennett.

Hitchin started well again after the break and Lowe and Martin linked up again, win the latter shooting into the side-netting.

Martin also tested Walker in the 66th minute with a shot from the edge of the area that was parried away from danger.

Hemel still struggled to carve out any clear cut opportunities. When they did break through the Hitchin defence, a last-ditch challenge by Stuart Pearson came to the rescue as Charlie Mpi shaped to shoot.

Hitchin secured the points in the 79th minute in bizarre fashion, Martin and Hemel defender Moussa Diarra went in for a tackle, the ball spun in the air and Martin ran on to follow it into the net.

The scoreline might have been even worse for Hemel if Walker had not saved from Burns and Lowe. And in added time, Hemel's David Parkes struck a post with a free kick.

There was a lot of enthuse about in Hitchin’s display: a solid defence, some nice touches in midfield and the leadership and flair of the front pairing. It bodes well for the next few weeks when the new regime will be under close scrutiny. But on the evidence of this 90 minutes, he vultures can look elsewhere.

Player watch
Simon Martin, although at the veteran stage of his career, showed what a class act he has been throughout his career. He held the ball up well, brought players in, showed trickery when in possession and scored an opportunist goal. Hemel’s highly-rated defenders found him a handful and he also linked up well with on-loan youngster Jamal Lowe. Top Field might provide an Indian Summer for Martin’s long career.

Numbers game

1: First shot of the game (Donnelly)

24: First goals – Robbie Burns
30: Visiting fans

79: Second goal – Simon Martin

330: Attendance

One eye on Hinckley...
Hitchin's opponents on Tuesday, Hinckley United, drew 2-2 at Hungerford. Their goals were scored by Declan Towers and Ben Ford.

Photo by Peter Else.

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