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Hitchin Town 2 Merthyr Town 0

Saturday, December 19 2015

Goals in the first and last minutes separated the sides at this pre-Christmas game at Top Field. Hitchin consolidated their push for the play offs as they extended the unbeaten league run to eight games, while for The Martyrs it was the end of a bad eight days on the road, having lost at Slough and Cambridge already.

The Hitchin side saw a number of changes from the one that put five past Sun Sports on Tuesday with Alasan Ann, Kane Smith and Robbie Burns returning, and Callum Donnelly, Ben Walster and Liam Brooks amongst those on the bench.

The Canaries made the perfect start, catching Merthyr cold as some of the pleasing 402 crowd - which included a very festive away contingent - were still making their way in. Robbie Burns nodded a lofted ball down into the path of Lucas Kirkpatrick who slotted past Tom Bradley's right hand.

Hitchin had the chance to double the lead on 15 minutes. Sam Barker's run into the box ended when he was hauled down. At first the referee appeared to rule out a penalty but, on consultation with his assistant, he changed his mind. It did not matter, though, as Lewis Rolfe's spot kick hit the outside of the post. 

Hitchin had the upper hand at this point and hit the woodwork again from a Burns header after good build-up. Matt Lench was then slightly further wide with another header while McNamara also had half chances but was channelled wide by the Martyrs defence.

Merthyr looked more dangerous going forward - particularly through Traylor and McLaggan, prompted by Brown and supported from defence by Hugh. Charlie Horlock was called upon just after the half hour to keep out a shot from Ian Traylor after he cut in from the right on a pacy run. 

Hitchin ended the half with the deserved advantage, as their tempo and passing had worried the visitors's defence and nearly resulted in a caution for Belle for upending Burns.

HALF TIME Hitchin Town 1 Merthyr Town 0  

The second half saw Merthyr pose more of a threat and press the Canaries. Matt Lench and Dan Webb had to make timely interventions while Sam Barker cleared an Evans header off the line after a corner from Brown. 

At the other end, Bradley saved a low shot from Barker and a Burns effort went wide after a Lench cross.

Tempers flared on the hour when Merthyr felt a headbutt had not been spotted and Barker, Kirkpatrick and Evans were all booked. McLaggan then went down very easily after another Barker challenge in what looked like an attempt to generate another card.

However the game was now ebbing and flowing with Kane Smith attacking from the back for Hitchin, and Wright responding from the Merthyr defence with a mazy run that beat three home defenders before he beat himself just as he was about to shoot!

Merthyr's top scorer, Prosser, had been well-shackled by the Hitchin defence. He had one half chance, heading wide from a freekick by substitute Bowen.

Bradley brought off saves from a Burns freekick, and Rolfe who fired in a fierce drive. As Hitchin looked to close the game, a dangerous Kane Smith run and cross also caused problems in the visiting defence but neither Donnelly nor Lench could quite get on the end of it. 

The result was only made certain as the game went into the final minute of stoppage time. Hitchin won a free kick on the edge of the box, Alasan Ann elected to go for goal and his low, curling effort sealed the points. 

This was a good win for The Canaries against a side that are not flattered by their league position. There were good performances across the park and that will hopefully stand Hitchin in good stead for the Tuesday trip to table-topping Poole Town. 

FINAL SCORE Hitchin Town 2 Merthyr Town 0


Hitchin - Horlock, Smith, Bickerstaff, Ann (cap), Webb, Rolfe, McNamara, Lench, Kirkpatrick, Burns, Barker; Subs - C Donnelly (for McNamara), Johnson, Walster, Martin, Brooks

Merthyr - Bradley, Jones, Hugh, Evans (cap), Belle, Wright, McLaggan, Bond, Prosser, Brown, Traylor; Subs -  Baggridge (for Jones), Bloom, Scotcher (for Bond), Morgan, Bowen (for Brown)

Yellow cards

Hitchin - Barker, Kirkpatrick, Smith, Donnelly
Merthyr - Evans, Wright

MOTM - Robbie Burns 

Attendance - 402


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