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Bideford AFC 0 Hitchin Town 0

Saturday, December 12 2015

At the fourth time of asking Hitchin finally gained their first point from the 488 mile round trip to Bideford. As to whether it was a point gained or two points dropped the answer would actually be that it could be considered either at different stages of the game. Overall though manager Mark Burke expressed his satisfaction at gaining as draw at a ground that held only bad memories. He was pleased with another clean sheet which was the fifth out of the last six league games and a seventh unbeaten league game since the Redditch defeat. Indeed in their last 14 games Hitchin have won 10, drawn 3 and only lost to Weston Super Mare.

It was a very blustery Bideford but the pitch played better than usual with less rain having fallen than was forecast. The only team change saw Robbie Burns come back in with Matt Lench dropping to the bench. Kane Smith was not ready to return with his bruised foot and was an unused substitute.

Hitchin started the game in sparkling form and totally dominated the first 25 minutes with crisp passing and good movement. If they could have scored in this period they would probably have gone on to win but the breakthrough did not come. Sam Barker shot wide virtually from the kick off while Burns put a free kick over the bar. The best chance fell to Brett Donnelly who headed just wide from an excellent Lucas Kirkpatrick cross. But having held Hitchin at bay Bideford seemed to grow in confidence and began to offer a threat for the first time and the remainder of the half was more even. Dan Webb had a shot hit the top of the bar after a corner and Bideford replied with a Richard Groves shot over the bar.

The second half saw Hitchin struggle to recapture the flowing football of the early part of the game. Burns headed a Ben Walster cross wide after 58 minutes before Lench replaced Brett Donnelly on 64 minutes while Callum Donnelly came on for Kirkpatrick soon after. Bideford continued to look dangerous and a Groves free kick passed just wide of the post.

The game was getting quite feisty and in the 73rd minute Walster saw red. The referee was going to show him a yellow card for a foul but he appeared to make contact with another player to change the colour of the card. This meant Hitchin had to dig in and display that resilience that has stood them in such good stead this season. Ali Ann moved to centre back with Josh Bickerstaff going to left back as Hitchin adapted to the one man disadvantage. It was hearts in the mouth time when Lench fouled Ian Sampson right on the edge of the area. At first it appeared the referee had awarded a penalty but he changed his mind after speaking to his assistant.

Matty Bye shot just wide after a dangerous cross before he received a straight red card for punching Callum Donnelly with the game in to injury time. Liam Brooks had replaced Jonny McNamara who had one or those games when the ball would just not run for him. Charlie Horlock ensured the draw with a good save in the 94th minute and it would have been unjust if Hitchin had not got the point. The performance showed the different aspects of Hitchin’s abilities with excellent football and dogged determination under pressure side by side. In previous seasons this was a game that would probably have been lost but Hitchin are no longer a soft touch and the play-offs remain a plausible target.

Hitchin - Horlock, Rolfe, Bickerstaff, Ann, Webb, Walster, McNamara, Kirkpatrick, B Donnelly, Burns, Barker  Subs Lench for B Donnelly 64, Johnson, Smith, C Donnelly for Kirkpatrick 69, Brooks for McNamara 87
Bideford - Moore, Palmer, Milton, Barker, Sampson, Harrison, Bye, Groves, Tucker, Squire, Andrew  Subs Reed for Tucker 53, Prynn for Squire 69, Chamberlain for Sampson 87, McGrath, Odufin.

Sent off  
Hitchin - Walster 
Bideford - Bye

Hitchin - Lench 
Bideford - Palmer, Tucker, Harrison, Bye

Attendance - 150  (7 from Hitchin – Chris, Frank and Guy behind the goal plus Mr and Mrs Gordon Bickerstaff, Terry Barratt and myself)

Roy Izzard

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