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Hitchin Town 2 Hungerford Town 3

Thursday, April 28 2016

For a few minutes, around the hour mark, it appeared to the majority of a packed Top Field, that the dream of a place in the National League South / North was still on. Hitchin Town had suddenly accelerated into a two goal lead and had half a foot in the Play Off Final. 
However, Hungerford had other ideas and, with their experience of play-off situations and a willingness to win ugly, they went about rudely awakening the Canaries from that dream. 
Hitchin would have realised they were in for a difficult evening when Hungerford nearly went ahead from their first corner. Day headed home but was adjudged to have pushed his way to the ball. The Crusaders looked to make full use of the pace of Jarvis and Brown, prompted by Clark and Preen while closing Hitchin down quickly. The other weapon in Hungerford's armoury was a succession of long throws, which Charlie Horlock sought to attack – either claiming, clearing or winning a foul. 
However Hitchin had half chances with Strudley preventing Callum Donnelly after he had broken well, while Dan Webb fired wide from one corner and Robbie Burns forced a save from the keeper from another one. 
At the other end, Horlock did well to save a low shot from Herring, while Rolfe and Webb also got in important challenges to break up Hungerford attacks. 
HALF TIME Hitchin Town Hungerford Town 0  
If the first half had been a sparring match, the second half was a full blooded scrap. Kirkpatrick and Smith worked well to rob Hungerford of the ball and cross to Burns who couldn't get his effort on target. At the other end, Horlock did well to turn behind an effort from Preen after a dubious freekick was given. From the corner Herring's header scraped the bar.  
On 56 minutes the deadlock was broken. Hitchin turned defence into attack with a ball into the path of Smith on the right flank. He got to the line, crossed and Brett Donnelly was on hand to beat Strudley from close range. 
The Hitchin fans behind the goal could barely believe it when, three minutes later, the lead was doubled. Smith was fouled by Tyler and Kirkpatrick's dead ball was flapped at by Strudley. It fell to Burns who went wide to find space for a shot and slotted the ball home from an angle. 
If Hitchin had been able to hold on to the two goal lead for ten or fifteen minutes, the result may have been different. However Hungerford showed their resilience on 64 minutes. A chipped cross from the right by Clark fell to Rees on the edge of the area and his shot crept just inside the post. 
The momentum had changed. Hitchin tried to keep the ball in their opponents half but they appeared to be the more tired side at this point, as Hungerford continued to pressure them, unconcerned at picking up a number of yellow cards in the process. 
On 75 minutes the relentless long throws finally paid off. The ball ran low across the face of the goal to Rees who happily slammed the ball home for the equaliser. 
While Burns shot narrowly wide after being set up by Kirkpatrick, the Canaries' defence was struggling under mounting pressure. Horlock was alert to stop one attack but, on 84 minutes, he failed to claim another long throw and it was left to Stefan Brown to turn the ball home to complete the turnaround. 
Alasan Ann had a half chance to level the scores when he headed a deep cross wide at the far post. With five minutes of stoppage time signalled, Hitchin pushed everyone forward. From their final freekick, the ball came back out to substitute Matt Lench. However his shot from the edge of the area flew tantalisingly wide of the post. And that was as close as it got as the referee blew for time, Hungerford went wild and Hitchin were lost for words. 
FINAL SCORE Hitchin Town 2 Hungerford Town 3  
In the cold light of day, Hungerford probably had the edge in this game but the manner of the changing scoreline was heartbreaking. The Canaries can though look back on an exciting season and a 3rd place finish in the Southern League. They also get the chance to ensure they finish the season on a positive note in the Herts Senior Cup Final next week.  
Then it will be about learning from this season and pushing for promotion again. The crowd of 1305, along with that on Saturday, proved that the appetite - across generations of supporters - for a successful team is there in Hitchin.  

Hitchin Town - Horlock, Wright, Bickerstaff, Ann, Webb, Rolfe, Smith, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, Burns, Kirkpatrick; subs - Brooks, Johnson, Spence, Lench (for Wright), Frendo (for B Donnelly) 
Hungerford Town - Strudley, Horgan, Tyler, Jones, Day, Rees, Clark, Herring, Jarvis, Brown, Preen; subs - Goodger (for Preen), Draycott, Rusby, John, Boardman 
Hitchin Town – B Donnelly 56, Burns 59 
Hungerford Town – Rees 64, Clark 75, Brown 84 
Yellow cards 
Hitchin Town - none 
Hungerford Town – Rees, Horgan, Jarvis, Goodger 
Attendance - 1305 
Colin (photo by Peter Else)

Hitchin Town v Hungerford Town 27.04.2016 from HitchinTV on Vimeo.

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