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Biggleswade Town 1 Hitchin Town 3

Monday, January 2 2017

The Canaries began 2017 in the same way as they ended 2016 - with a win in a local derby. However, while the Boxing Day win against Dunstable Town was a case of grinding out a result, this game saw a convincing team performance against the Waders.

Hitchin began with the same starting eleven as on Boxing Day but welcomed Brett Donnelly back to the bench after suspension. The word from the hosts’ camp was that this might be prolific ex-Canary Inih Effiong’s last game before moving to full-time football.

Biggleswade set off at a lively pace and had the ball in the Hitchin net in the first minute but the effort was ruled out. The first quarter of the game between two teams in good form was evenly contested. Hitchin built some attractive passing moves and just required someone to get on the end of crosses from Kane Smith and Liam Brooks. At the other end, Biggleswade’s more direct approach saw a shot from Evan Key drift wide and Brad Hewitt head off target from a free kick.

Hitchin continued to threaten when Mason Spence broke down the right after a Waders’ attack and advanced some 60 yards. However his run was blocked before he could find Brooks who had taken up a good position coming in from the opposite flank.

The deadlock was finally broken on the half hour and it was a goal to grace any match. Smith picked up the ball 30 yards out on the right and let fly with a thunderbolt that caught Ian Brown - and most of the crowd - by surprise as it flew into the top corner. 

Five minutes later Smith turned provider. His cross was met by Matt Lench whose first effort bounced back off the bar. The number 11 was quickest to react and he followed up to double the lead. 

At this point the Canaries looked in control but Biggleswade were handed a controversial lifeline on 37 minutes. A driven ball into the Hitchin box hit Dan Webb and the referee deemed it “hand to ball” rather than “ball to hand” and awarded a penalty, although the Waders’ side were not vociferous in their appeals for a spotkick. Effiong stepped up to take a firm shot from the spot. Michael Johnson guessed correctly and dived to his right. He got a hand to the ball and tipped it onto the post. However his luck was out as the ball bounced off the post and behind the keeper into the net.

The goal didn't throw Hitchin out of their stride although Johnson did have to get down to snuff out a Biggleswade through ball that ran past two attackers just before the interval.

HALF TIME - Biggleswade Town 1 Hitchin Town 2

The Canaries continued to push for goals after the break. A Ben Walster freekick didn’t threaten Brown but nearly fell for Hitchin’s onrushing attackers before Biggleswade hacked clear. Soon afterwards Gavin Hoyte got in a great defensive tackle to curtail a threatening run from Brooks. 

Biggleswade did have a promising spell where the lively Rhys Hoenes shot over, while Johnson was forced into two saves - the best coming from a freekick taken by Effiong in a central position. Hitchin also had chances as a Lench shot was deflected for a corner, Robbie Burns fired over and Webb nearly got on the end of a Lucas Kirkpatrick cross.

It was Hitchin though who did claim the next goal on 67 minutes. Spence got his head to a cross from the right and looped the ball over his marker. It reached Lench at the far post and his header beat Brown to restore the two goal margin.

This seemed to knock any remaining wind out of the hosts’ sails. Hitchin could have added to their tally as a jinking run by Burns only came to an end because he was closed down by half the Biggleswade team, while Callum Donnelly - who came on for Brooks - had a shot gathered easily by Brown. The keeper also collected a gentle effort from Lench. 

As the clock ran down, Lench so nearly claimed what would have been a deserved hat trick for his all round performance. He cut into the area from the left flank, leaving three defenders behind, and unleashed a shot that beat Brown. Sadly it did not beat the woodwork and deflected off the crossbar.

Despite that, the result was convincing as was the performance, much to the delight of the Hitchin fans who formed the majority of Biggleswade’s biggest crowd of the season. Hitchin were lively up front, while Webb and Wright in particular limited Effiong’s opportunities and Josh Bickerstaff continued to play an important role in front of the defence. The result - and others elsewhere - saw the Canaries climb into second place ahead of their clash at Top Field against Stratford Town on Saturday. 

FULL TIME - Biggleswade Town 1 Hitchin Town 3

Biggleswade Town - Brown, Lewis, Perry, Parker, Hewitt, Hoyte, Daniel, Hall, Effiong, Key, Hoenes; subs - Patrick (for Hewitt), Norman, Burnett (for Key), Lucan, Vincent ()
Hitchin Town - Johnson, Smith, Walster, Bickerstaff, Webb, Wright, Spence, Kirkpatrick, Brooks, Burns, Lench; subs - C Donnelly (for Brooks), Clarke, King, Barnes, B Donnelly (for Spence)

Biggleswade Town - Effiong (pen 37)
Hitchin Town - Smith (30), Lench (35, 67)

Yellow cards
Biggleswade Town - Parker
Hitchin Town - Kirkpatrick

Attendance - 551

Colin, photo by Peter Else

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