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Hitchin Town 0 Wingate & Finchley 1

Monday, October 21 2013

Not since 2004 have Hitchin crashed out of both FA competitions at the first hurdle, but manager Mark Burke will be very frustrated that his fledgling side allowed this FA Trophy tie to slip from its grasp, reports Neil Jensen.

Two goals up in the first game, they let Wingate & Finchley off the hook in the first meeting and in this disappointing replay, the North Londoners performed the so-called “smash and grab” on their hosts.

For all Hitchin’s Calor Gas version of tiki-taka-lite, they fail to deliver in the most important area of the pitch and they were made to pay for it. The purists may love the Canaries’ midfield choreography, but up front, the hole left by John Frendo looks wider every week.

No shortage of effort, though, from “Burke’s babes”, but their high level of industry was matched by Wingate, who ended the game with 10 men.

Hitchin started well, however, with Robbie Burns continuing his good form. His free-kick was met by Michael King, who headed just wide and a typical run ended with a cross that King shot inches past the post. Lewis Rolfe caught the eye, too, showing determination down the flank and perhaps should have been more generous when he weaved his way into the area but chose to shoot rather than find a team-mate. And if Dan Webb had timed his header better from a Jamal Lowe cross, Wingate may have been beyond recovery by the half-hour.

But in the 39th minute, Wingate scored, a cross from Ola Williams controlled on the chest of Ahmet Rifat and he was allowed the time to bring the ball down and roll his effort past Tahj Bell from close range.

The goal changed the dynamics of the game and Hitchin looked a little desperate as they tried to save the tie. They scurried around the Wingate penalty area and indeed, created chances, but they lacked the composure when the goal came in sight. A series of strikes from Michael Noone bordered on the verge of speculative and the midfielder struck the outside of the post with another effort.

An incident in the 74th minute summed up Hitchin’s night. A shot from Rogan McGeorge took a deflection off King and with goalkeeper Cain Davies wrong-footed and heading in the opposite direction of the shot, he managed to get a touch and push the ball onto the crossbar.

Five minutes later, Wingate’s Paul Wright was sent off but it seemed to make no difference. In fact, Wingate still managed to find space as they pushed forward, notably Leon Smith, a robust and fiersome striker who brought a fine save out of Bell.  The Canaries’ keeper pulled off another good save in the dying seconds from a corner, but in the 90th minute, three efforts, one a sitter for Callum Donnelly and two more examples of wayward shooting practice from Noone, could have retrieved the deficit.

“At least we can concentrate on the league,” said one wag as the paltry crowd filed out. “We weren’t going to win the Trophy anyway.” No, but the money comes in handy – perhaps to buy the striker the Canaries so badly need.

Hitchin: Bell, Rolfe, Bickerstaff, Noone, Webb, Pearson (Martin 81), McGeorge, Donnelly, King, Burns, Lowe Subs not used: Barker, Lench, Burtenshaw, Hulman

Wingate: Davies, Williams, Wright, McGonigle, Weatherstone, Owen, Mason, McCall, Laird (Smith 73), Rifat, Sellers (Street 67) Subs not used: Hallam, Sharpe, Kennett

Attendance: 114
Referee: T.Ramsey

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