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Basingstoke Town 1 Hitchin Town 1

Saturday, April 22 2017

Hitchin Town secured fourth place in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier League, and an away play-off tie against Merthyr Town, with a 1-1 draw at the Camrose. 

Basingstoke went into the game in good recent form - a far cry from the team that had been beaten at Top Field in the autumn. They also had more than pride to play for given that this was anticipated to be the last game they played at their home of over 70 years, due to their owner selling off the stadium.

That boosted the crowd to 617 although some of that number caused a delay in kick off as they protested in the centre circle and the goalmouth prior to kick off. It took 'Stoke skipper David Ray to persuade them to let proceedings continue, which they did just seven minutes late.

Hitchin set off in pursuit of 3 points with Brett Donnelly and Liam Brooks up front but it was the hosts who carried all the threat.

Michael Johnson had to push away a shot from Nana Owusu who had carried the ball from the halfway line, and then gathered a header by Robert Atkinson who met a 'Stoke freekick.

The Canaries best effort in the first period came after Brooks was fouled and Ben Walster's free kick was pushed away from the foot of his post by keeper Alex Tokarczyk. Brooks also fired just over the crossbar for Hitchin as they tried to find some cohesion. 

However the momentum was with the hosts as Jay Dowie had to clear a Matt Partridge shot off the line after a corner. Basingstoke then came even closer when Aaron Redford shot on the turn and beat Johnson. The ball hit the inside of the post and bounced along the goalline before Dan Webb hacked the ball clear! Aaron Jarvis then made progress down the left, beating Wright and Webb and only a late recovery by the skipper - as the striker was about to shoot - allowed Johnson to smother the shot.

Hitchin were being consistently pressurised by Basingstoke and it was no surprise that the hosts took the lead on 40 minutes. A free kick was given away by Lewis Rolfe and Owusu's effort cannoned off the defensive wall for a corner. From the corner, Jarvis chested the ball down and shot on the turn. Johnson managed to get a hand on it but could only turn it so that it went in off the post.

Half time Basingstoke Town 1 Hitchin Town 1

At the break Robbie Burns replaced Brett Donnelly. His good work with Brooks set up Matt Lench for a shot that flew over, while Lucas Kirkpatrick slid a lovely pass between the home defender for Will Wright to run onto, only for his effort to go wide.

However Artwell, who had replaced Owusu, also caused a threat for Basingstoke as he ran behind the Canary defence and forced a hurried clearance, before Partridge again came close.

However just before the hour, Hitchin were level as Lench met a deep cross with a header that was similar to his goal at Dorchester which looped over Tokarczyk and, after what seemed an age, nestled in the opposite corner of the goal. 

The goal did not deter Basingstoke though, and Joe Gater headed a Sam Deadfield freekick just over, before Redford fired over the bar after a corner was half cleared. Jarvis also headed wide after Partridge nodded a George Bennett cross back across the goal.

At the other end, Lench volleyed straight at keeper Tokarczyk, while Callum Donnelly - having been booked within five minutes of coming on - managed to find fellow substitute Jonny McNamara only for the latter to stray offside. McNamara did better soon afterwards as he broke down the right and cut back for Jay Dowie to get in a shot which Gater blocked. 

Hitchin were more of a force in this half but still failed to seriously test Tokarczyk. Lench won a free kick which ran to Callum Donnelly at the far post but his effort was off target while Lench himself then met a Webb crossfield ball only to find the side netting.

Basingstoke had late shouts for a penalty but the referee was not persuaded and the regular season came to a close with honours even. As other results became clear and the play-off positions confirmed, the Canaries had to contemplate a long road trip to Merthyr on Wednesday for a play-off semifinal. Basingstoke have to contemplate life permanently on the road as the Camrose closed its doors.

FINAL SCORE Basingstoke Town 1 Hitchin Town 1

Basingstoke Town - Tokarczyk, Van Cooten, Bennett, Gater, Ray, R Atkinson, Deadfield, Partridge, Jarvis, Redford, Owusu; subs - Ashwell (for Owusu), Greene, M Atkinson (for Bennett), Collier, Johnson-Schuster (for Van Cooten)
Hitchin Town - Johnson, Wright, Walster, Dowie, Webb, Rolfe, Lench, Kirkpatrick, B Donnelly, Brooks, Bickerstaff; subs - Burns (for B Donnelly), McNamara (for Kirkpatrick), C Donnelly (for Brooks), King, Spence

Basingstoke Town - Jarvis (40)
Hitchin Town - Lench (58)

Yellow cards
Hitchin Town - C Donnelly

Attendance - 617

Colin, photo by Peter Else

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