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Stratford Town 1 Hitchin Town 1

Tuesday, March 15 2016

After totally dominating the second half Hitchin will feel this was a case of two points dropped rather than one gained. However manager Mark Burke said after the game that he was still happy as he feels that if we win at home and draw away we will not be far away when the play off chase reaches its climax, and was also pleased this was a fourth unbeaten game after the two defeats at Poole and Redditch.

While Stratford have been struggling for form they have only lost three league games at home and they made a confident start playing with a strong wind behind them. Despite Alasan Ann having a shot saved after 8 minutes Hitchin did not make a good start to the game and Charlie Horlock made good early saves from Tyrone Fagan and Jamie Sheldon. 

Stratford were coming forward at pace and after two chances to clear the ball were wasted an excellent left wing cross was headed home by Fagan to give Stratford a deserved lead after 16 minutes.

As so often this season Hitchin responded well. A good move saw Jonny McNamara produce a telling cross that Brett Donnelly slotted home with 27 minutes on the clock. McNamara shot over the bar soon after but Brett had to be replaced by Mason Spence on 38 minutes after sustaining a painful dead leg injury. Robbie Burns moved up front with Spence slotting in to midfield and Hitchin ended the half with McNamara forcing another save from Andy Kemp.

If the first half was disappointing Hitchin were much better in the second half and carved out a good number of chances. They hit the woodwork three times and had a ‘’goal’’ disallowed but they could not get the winning goal they deserved.

Spence had a shot saved after 53 minutes and Stratford rarely offered any threat in the second half as Hitchin applied relentless pressure. Ben Walster had a free kick go just over the bar before Burns forced another good save from Kemp. 

McNamara had a good chance when he was one on one with the keeper but again Kemp saved well. Hitchin were getting closer to the breakthrough and Walster’s 85th minute free kick hit the post with Burns unable to net the rebound. It was Walster again minutes later who struck a stunning 30 yard shot that Kemp tipped on to the bar. Hitchin were in complete control but the ball would not go in the net—until 3 minutes in to injury time Kane Smith produced a cracking shot that hit the bar and came down over the line according to the fans behind the goal but the assistant referee saw it differently. He was not totally up with play and eventually flagged for an offside decision. As with the penalty incident on Saturday the Hitchin players reacted furiously as they were convinced a perfectly legitimate goal had been chalked off.

The game finished with Michael McGrath being sent off for a bad challenge on Smith and Hitchin had to settle for the draw. While other results were not favourable Hitchin are still in the play off zone and the self belief of the players is still very much in evidence and they are well placed to achieve that top 5 finish.

Hitchin - Horlock, Smith, Walster, Ann, Webb, Rolfe, McNamara, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, Burns, Kirkpatrick  Subs Burns for B Donnelly 38, Johnson, Bickerstaff, Barnes, Frendo
Stratford - Kemp, Stringfellow, Westwood, Simpson, Francis, Roberts, Magee, McGrath, Fagan, Gregory, Sheldon  Subs Moran, Tulloch for Gregory 66, Angus for Magee 64, Faulkner, Price

Hitchin - B Donnelly 27
Stratford - Fagan 16

Sent off
- McGrath

Hitchin - Walster
Stratford - McGrath

Attendance - 156

Roy Izzard, photo by Peter Else

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