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St Neots Town 1 Hitchin Town 2

Tuesday, February 16 2016

Hitchin Town kept their play-off aspirations alive after coming back from an early blow at St Neots.
A penalty in the first minute for the hosts was cancelled out by second half goals from Kane Smith and Jonny McNamara and saw the Canaries consolidate their fourth place spot ahead of three "top of the table" clashes.
Hitchin made one change from Saturday with Kieran Barnes handed a first league start as Robbie Burns was ruled out after a work accident.
Many of the 298 crowd had not taken their places on the terracing when St Neots were given an ideal start. A tangle in the area with Dawkin saw referee Mr Avent point to the spot. Drew Roberts, a frequent thorn in Hitchin's side, made no mistake with the penalty.
The game then settled into a high tempo end to end encounter but it was Hitchin that had more half chances. Callum Donnelly robbed a defender outside the area but his shot flew over the bar, while Brett Donnelly beat Anton to the ball before seeing his effort parried by keeper Wilton. 
McNamara caused problems down the right flank and while not all of his crosses could not find the incoming attackers, one saw a Brett Donnelly effort land on the roof of the net. McNamara then had a shout for a penalty turned down after being clattered in the box by Tann, but this time the referee declined to point to the spot this time. Barnes then fired a half chance over after being teed up by Alasan Ann.
Hitchin did well not to get sucked into a niggly contest as Longden was then carded for upending Callum Donnelly, and had the balance of possession as the half drew to a close without being able to turn that into an equaliser. The home side had forced one low save from Charlie Horlock, and Akinyemi had fallen foul of the linesman's flag but they had created far less.
HALF TIME St Neots 1 Hitchin 0
Hitchin continued to take the fight to St Neots after the break. Another headed effort from Brett Donnelly, from a Smith cross, flew just over while Barnes got in a good cross after Walster had broken up a home attack. Wilton had to be alert to an effort from a tight angle by McNamara, saving with his feet. 
However the keeper went from hero to villain in the 58th minute as a high ball from the flank by Kane Smith appeared to catch him off guard and floated over his head and in at the far post. From behind the goal it appeared to be a cross but from other angles it looked like the intention was clear. In either case, the goal was just reward for the Canaries' persistence.
Hitchin nearly had a second moments later as Wilton redeemed himself by saving a Callum Donnelly effort and then the follow-up by Barnes. 
However a second goal did arrive on 71 minutes when a Hitchin corner eluded Wilton and it was left for McNamara to tap over the line at the far post.
From this point, Hitchin managed out the game expertly. The defence snuffed out the sporadic attacks by St Neots while, going forward, the team retained possession well. Mark Burke was also able to bring on Spence and Palmiero to give them valuable game time, with Spence demonstrating some alert passes.
The final whistle was celebrated by the large contingent of visiting fans and signalled a deserved win for Hitchin as well as some revenge for the 6-2 defeat last season. While the two goals could be attributed to errors by Wilton, this should not deflect from the overall level of Hitchin performance that was too good for a St Neots side looking a shadow of last season's play-off candidates. It also sets the Canaries up for the upcoming string of tough games. 
FINAL SCORE St Neots 1 Hitchin Town 2
St Neots: - Wilton, Casey, Longden, Tann (captain), Ward, Anton, Coulson, Clark, Akinyemi, Roberts, Dawkin; subs - Hobbs (for Akinyemi), Rudman, Nurettin, Ofosu (for Coulson), Jeckells
Hitchin: - Horlock, Smith, Walster, Webb, Rolfe, Ann, McNamara, Callum Donnelly (captain), Brett Donnelly, Barnes, Kirkpatrick; subs - Spence (for Barnes), Johnson, Pearson, Palmiero (for Callum Donnelly), Wright
Yellow cards
St Neots - Longden
Hitchin – none
Attendance - 298

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