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Chippenham Town 1 Hitchin Town 1

Saturday, March 12 2016

Resilience is a quality that has been displayed consistently by Hitchin this season and it was again on show at Chippenham as they had to show the strength of character to recover from conceding a hotly disputed goal two minutes in to injury time at the end of the first half.
The goal incensed players, officials and management and Charlie Horlock was booked for protesting too vigorously. It seemed  inevitable Horlock would win a free kick as Oli Taylor bundled in to him with the loose ball falling to Alex Ferguson to score from close range. To everyone’s amazement the goal was allowed to stand when normally any contact with a goalkeeper is penalised. The half time whistle immediately followed and manager Mark Burke made his feelings known to referee Mr Morris as they returned to the dressing rooms.
But as so often this season Hitchin did not wallow in their frustration and disappointment but came out to dominate the second half and deservedly got a draw that could so easily have been a victory on the evidence of clear cut chances created.
With Kane Smith fit again he came in at right back with Lewis Rolfe moving to centre back and Josh Bickerstaff dropping down to the bench. Chippenham kicked down the slope in the first half and were on the front foot from the beginning. The front pair of Alan Griffin and Andy Sandell are up with the best in the league and even when Sandell had to be replaced after 23 minutes Taylor proved a real handful. Griffin is so good at holding the ball up and is very difficult to knock off the ball and keeper Kent Kauppinen sent a succession of long kicks diagonally down the slope aiming for Griffin’s head. It was certainly difficult for Hitchin in the first half but over the 90 minutes Rolfe and Dan Webb were outstanding in coping with the Chippenham threat.
Matt Jones shot over early on but then an excellent Callum Donnelly pass set up Jonny McNamara whose shot produced a top draw save from Kauppinen. Taylor who once played for Hitchin nearly scored with his first touch shooting just wide but the Smith-McNamara combination was always a threat for Hitchin down the right hand side.
Griffin shot just wide but it appeared that Hitchin had got to half time without conceding before that controversial goal scuppered the good work. However one weakness Hitchin must address is conceding unnecessary free kicks as the goal came from a free kick needlessly given away when there was no real danger. The result was that against each of the top three teams Poole, Redditch and Chippenham Hitchin conceded goals from free kicks that could have been avoided.
Hitchin looked fired up for the second half and McNamara shot weakly from a good chance. Keeper Kauppinen was lucky to only receive a yellow card for pushing Callum Donnelly over and to add insult to injury he then made a fine save from Alasan Ann who then shot wide as Hitchin dominated possession.
Robbie Burns replaced Mason Spence and three minutes later the equaliser came. After a delay for thinking time the referee awarded Hitchin a penalty for a handball in the area and Rolfe deserves great credit for holding his nerve when there was a delay before he confidently despatched his spot kick after 64 minutes.
Burns had a great chance to put Hitchin ahead but Kauppinen saved and he also did well to thwart Webb’s header. At the other end Horlock made good saves from Taylor and Michael Pook as Chippenham still offered a threat but Hitchin remained on top as in injury time McNamara, Burns and Callum Donnelly all came close before Smith had a goal bound shot cleared off the line.
Possibly a draw was a fair result as each side dominated with the slope but Hitchin created the better chances and Burke was certainly happy with the point. Having played all the top sides recently Hitchin have proved more than equal to all of them and their play off position is well merited.

Hitchin - Horlock, Smith, Walster, Ann, Webb, Rolfe, McNamara, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, Spence, Kirkpatrick  Subs Burns for Spence 61, Johnson, Bickerstaff for Ann 90. MacDevitt, Barnes.
Chippenham - Kauppinen, Henry, Grant, Allen, Tindle, Preece, Ferguson, Pook, Griffin, Sandell, Jones,  Subs Malpas, Guthrie for Allen 74, Taylor for Sandell 23,Whitehead, Ballinger for Henry 74.
Hitchin - Rolfe pen 64
Chippenham - Ferguson 45+2
Hitchin - Horlock
Chippenham - Kauppinen and Allen
Attendance - 338
Roy Izzard

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