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St Neots Town 6 Hitchin Town 2

Saturday, February 21 2015

Hitchin’s play-off aspirations were dealt a significant blow as their rivals punished them with six of the best.

The signs looked ominous from the start as St Neots’ attack didn’t give Hitchin time to settle. The Canaries struggled to get out of their half with the hosts forcing Horlock into a good low save and also hitting the post.

McNamara made one good run into the box but couldn’t carve out a clear chance for a shot. It was though no surprise when St Neots took the lead on 15 minutes. Walster conceded a free kick on the Hitchin left, which was played to the far post where Clarke escaped the attention of Martin to nod back into the net.

Clarke was the man of the moment as he then incurred a yellow card for fouling Alasan Ann and then hit Hitchin even harder. Hilliard drifted in from the St Neots left and put in a curling shot which seemed to be straight into the hands of Horlock. However the keeper fumbled the shot – possibly because the shot was curled round a defender – and Clarke was on hand to score after 18 minutes.

Things looked bad for Hitchin as Webb was yellow carded and Clarke fired another shot over. Then against the run of play, Lench ran at the St Neots defence, Bastock came out to smother the ball but it fell to Kirkpatrick on the edge of the area who chipped in via the far post, on the half hour.

St Neots regained their two goal advantage two minutes later as Clarke grabbed his hat-trick in controversial circumstances. His shot was fumbled by Horlock, who had an uncharacteristically shaky game, but looked to have been cleared off the line by the defender. However the referee’s assistant indicated the ball had crossed the line to make it 3-1 after 32 minutes.

While St Neots still had the upper hand, Hitchin snatched another lifeline on 44 minutes. A surging run by McNamara allowed Rees to cross and Lench scored from close range with a shot into the roof of the net.

On the stroke of halftime, Hitchin nearly had another chance as Martin just failed to make contact with his head on a free kick.

HALF TIME St Neots 3 Hitchin 2

The opening period of the second half was even but St Neots made the decisive breakthrough on 57 minutes.  A ball across the penalty area by Spring evaded everyone except Hilliard at the back post, who fired a low shot past Horlock.

While Hitchin battled on, with McNamara coming close, the impetus remained with St Neots.  During the second half they had made use of long throws, with the sun shining into the defending side’s eyes. The fifth goal arrived on 68 minutes from a long throw that Horlock could only palm into the path of Roberts who stabbed home.

Mark Burke brought fresh legs on, using all three substitutes, but St Neots wrapped up the match with their sixth goal on 80 minutes. Again it was controversial as the ball came to Roberts when he was in clear space and looked offside. There was no flag and he fired over Horlock.

St Neots had more chances as Roberts and sub Vieira fired over and Harty hit the post. While Hitchin could argue about the legitimacy of two of the goals, they were still well beaten and the hosts now look more likely to contest the play-offs.

FINAL SCORE St Neots 6 Hitchin 2

Teams

St Neots – Bastock, Tann, Wilkinson, Wilson, Mitchel-King, Ward, Hilliard, Spring, Clarke, Roberts, Longden; subs – Frater, Harty (for Wilson), Bickerstaff (for Hilliard), Vieira (for Clarke), Hobbs

Hitchin – Horlock, Rolfe, Walster, Ann (capt), Webb, Barker, McNamara, Lench, Martin, Kirkpatrick, Rees; subs – Brett Donnelly (for Martin), Peacock (for Kirkpatrick), Williams, Smith (for Walster), Johnson

Cards

Yellow – St Neots – Clarke; Hitchin -  Webb, Barker

Attendance - 547

Colin Ridgway

 



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