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Hitchin Town 2-2 Stratford Town (4-2 on penalties)

Monday, November 9 2015

Hitchin do not have fond memories of penalty shoot outs and indeed since 2000 had only won 3 out of 10 contested. So it was with some trepidation that Hitchin faced their latest penalty shoot out with Stratford after an 84th minute equaliser earned the draw and with no extra time in the Red Insure Cup the result hinged on spot kicks.

Jamie Sheldon scored the first for Stratford but Will Wright showed no nerves as he levelled matters. Then Michael Johnson produced a fine save from Jack Roberts before Lewis Rolfe put Hitchin ahead. Then Michael McGrath hit the post before Lucas Kirkpatrick gave Hitchin a 3-1 lead. Simeon Tulloch made it 3-2 but Ben Walster showed great  confidence as he despatched his penalty to give Hitchin an unassailable 4-2 margin and send Hitchin through to the next round.

Mark Burke again employed squad rotation as he used the game to rest certain players and give others valuable match time. He used Johnson in goal with a flat back four of Kane Smith, Wright, Josh Bickerstaff and Walster with Ali Ann and Sam Barker holding midfielders behind Kirkpatrick with Robbie Burns through the middle and Matt Lench and Jonny McNamara playing wide in a 4-2-1-3 formation.

Hitchin made a good start with Lench heading just wide from a Smith cross before Kirkpatrick gave them the lead with an opportunistic  goal after 8 minutes. He spotted keeper Andy Kemp off his line and rifled a 30 yard shot over him in to the net. McNamara came close to increasing the lead before Stratford scored against the run of play after 22 minutes when Richard Gregory produced a shot that seemed to wrong foot Johnson.

Unfortunately the referee Mr Feerick seemed keen to take centre stage throughout the game and infuriated players and fans alike with some mystifying decisions and a seeming determination not to let the game flow. He harshly booked Ann and the game was not helped by his unsympathetic style of refereeing.

Stratford took the lead when Sheldon scored from close range after a dangerous cross in the 42nd minute. McNamara then shot in to the side netting after a fine pass from Barker on the stroke of half time to leave Hitchin trailing after a half where they had played the better football.

Rolfe replaced Ann in the second half and Hitchin went in search of the equaliser. They thought they had it when Kirkpatrick headed home after Bickerstaff’s shot had thudded against the post but he was ruled offside. Lench shot wide before Robert Thompson-Brown was shown a straight red card for a bad foul on Wright. Hitchin piled forward and were eventually rewarded with just 6 minutes to go as Walster’s shot was cleverly turned in to the net by Burns. Incredibly the referee only added on 4 minutes stoppage time despite having spent far more time talking to players and his assistants to the frustration of everyone.

So it was penalties and Hitchin got the win they deserved. That is now 6 wins on the trot and in 4 of them Hitchin have come from behind showing how they will not lie down. In each of the 6 wins Hitchin have scored a goal after the 80th minute as they continue to finish games strongly. Next up it is the F A Trophy and a tricky visit to Haringey but confidence is definitely growing.

TEAMS

Hitchin:  Johnson, Smith, Walster, Ann, Wright, Bickerstaff, McNamara, Lench, Kirkpatrick, Burns, Barker  Subs Rolfe for Ann 46, Horlock, Boyd, Brooks, Payne

Stratford:  Kemp, Moran, Westwood, Francis, Charles, Roberts, Tulloch, McGrath, Gregory, Ahenkorah, Sheldon  Subs Thompson-Brown for Ahenkorah 73, Price, Stringfellow for Gregory 75, Faulkner, Simpson

Booking:

Hitchin Ann

Stratford Tulloch

Sending off:

Stratford Thompson-Brown

Attendance: 90

Roy Izzard



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