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Biggleswade Town 3 Hitchin Town 5

Saturday, April 16 2016

On a day when a number of Southern League games fell to the weather, it was raining goals as the Canaries overcame the Waders and kept up their play-off push. In front of a crowd of 461 – of which the majority were Hitchin fans – the match was a personal triumph for Brett Donnelly who returned to haunt his former side and depart with the match ball. 
Hitchin started with the same eleven that began against Chesham, and with Simon Martin returning to the bench after his goals on loan for Baldock Town. 
If there were any Hitchin nerves, they were settled on 12 minutes. Callum Donnelly crossed from the right hand side, Robbie Burns met the ball beyond the far post and sent it back for Brett Donnelly to nod in from close range. 
Biggleswade looked more positive than the pedestrian side that appeared in the reverse fixture. They were most dangerous down the flanks, particularly through Freeman on the left and one of his crosses fell just behind the advancing strikers.   
Freeman turned scorer when the Waders equalised on 27 minutes but it was as a result of some careless play in the Hitchin defence. A Canaries attack broke down and the ball was underhit by Walster on the halfway line. Rolfe was unable to cut it out and Burnett bundled the loose ball to Freeman on the other flank. He took the ball on and fired into the far corner from an angle. 
Despite one or two mishit passes, Hitchin still looked like they would retake the lead. A good cross from Kane Smith was just too deep for Burns to get a good header on, but on 36 minutes Hitchin did get their second goal. The ball pinged around the Biggleswade box and Dan Webb brought a very good save from Brown. However it finally ran to Josh Bickerstaff who converted at the far post. 
Biggleswade tried to get back on level terms before the interval, with Key blazing over from distance, while Charlie Horlock saved from Hoyte's head after a corner and also had to get down well to stop a Freeman effort. Vincent also headed over from a good cross from the right side by ex-Canary Michael King. 
At the other end, Burns and Smith combined well while Callum Donnelly curled a shot just past the post. 
HALF TIME Biggleswade Town 1 Hitchin Town 2 
It was clear that the next goal would be critical and, although Hoyte headed a Freeman corner just wide, that goal fell to Hitchin on 54 minutes. After good work by Wright and Bickerstaff, Smith crossed to the far post for Burns to turn home. 
The Canaries extended the lead six minutes later. Brett Donnelly was on hand again after being set up by a neat back heal by Webb. 
Hitchin had a muted shout for a penalty after Callum Donnelly latched on to a Burns cross. His shot struck a Biggleswade defender but no kick was given. Biggleswade grabbed a goal back on 69 minutes when a long throw was half cleared by Horlock – who may have been impeded – and the ball fell to Vincent to make the score 4-2. 
However it was to be Brett Donnelly's day and his hat trick arrived on 73 minutes after a great build up. Smith nutmegged a defender to play the ball into the path of Alasan Ann. He advanced with the ball and delivered a perfect curling cross to find Donnelly in front of goal where the striker diverted it past Brown. 
Brown had to deal with a Rolfe free kick which was nodded down by Webb into the path of Callum Donnelly. However for most of the remainder of the game, Hitchin tried to soak up Biggleswade's efforts. Mark Burke was able to introduce Matt Lench – as well as Liam Brooks - to get some valuable game time; Brooks came on for Brett Donnelly who received appreciative applause from all sides of the ground. 
Biggleswade did pull a goal back on 87 minutes when another former Canary Ian Rees was on hand to convert after Hitchin had more than one opportunity to clear their lines. Had York not then sent a header wide at close range from a Waders corner, the final couple of minutes might have been nail biting. 
However, while the result wasn't as emphatic as last season's 7-3 victory it was a pleasing win which showed the Canaries goal threat can come from all quarters and was enough to maintain momentum given wins at the same time for Leamington and Hungerford. 
FULL TIME Biggleswade Town 3 Hitchin Town 5  
While Hitchin now have a cup final to look forward to, a number of their rivals have two league games to fit in before the final round of games next Saturday. If Monday night's result at Redditch goes the right way, Hitchin may go into the Hertfordshire Senior Cup Final with a play-off place already confirmed.

Biggleswade Town - Brown, York, Coulson, Short, Hoyte, Key, King, Rees, Vincent, Burnett, Freeman  
Subs - Fortune, Effiong (for Burnett), Marsh (for Vincent), Daniel, Lewis 
Hitchin Town - Horlock, Wright, Walster, Ann, Webb, Rolfe, Smith, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, Burns, Bickerstaff 
Subs - Brooks (for B Donnelly), Johnson, Barnes, Martin, Lench (for Rolfe) 
Biggleswade Town – Freeman (27), Vincent (69), Rees (87) 
Hitchin Town – B Donnelly (12, 60, 73), Bickerstaff (36), Burns (54) 
Yellow cards 
Biggleswade Town - none 
Hitchin Town – Will Wright 
Attendance - 461 
Colin, photo by Peter Else

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