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Hitchin Town 1 Biggleswade Town 1

Monday, April 17 2017

The Canaries secured a place in the end of season play-offs for the second season in a row. This was ensured after a tense 1-1 draw against local rivals Biggleswade Town, coupled with Banbury's defeat at Leamington.

Following Saturday's tough encounter at Banbury, Jonny McNamara, Matt Lench, Callum Donnelly and Liam Brooks started for the injured Kane Smith with Brett Donnelly, Robbie Burns and Lucas Kirkpatrick on the bench.  Will Wright switched to right back while Lewis Rolfe partnered Dan Webb in the centre of defence.

Hitchin got off to the perfect start with the game just over a minute old. Good approach work on the right ended with a cross that Brooks flicked into the path of Lench at the far post. His composed finish gave Ian Brown no chance.

Lench almost doubled the lead soon afterwards as he again met a far post cross from Will Wright only for his diving header to hit the post.

At this stage, the Waders - despite their recent good form - were confined to set pieces from wide on the left, which Hitchin conceded too easily. The first two were easily cleared but Michael Johnson was forced to react twice to the third as he punched clear the initial ball and then gathered the follow-up shot.

At the other end, Hitchin pressed for the second goal and Brooks had an effort cleared off the line after Josh Bickerstaff crossed for Lench to tee up the striker. Walster blazed over after a corner, while Brown saved from Donnelly after good work out wide by Brooks.
Johnson was again alert to an effort from Burnett  following a Hoenes freekick on Biggleswade's right while, for the Canaries, Lench was just off target following a corner.

Despite being under pressure during the half, Biggleswade were able to bounce back just before the interval. A deep free kick from Parker bobbled in the box and it was Connor Vincent who finally tucked it away from close range to level the scores.

Jay Dowie went close from a final Hitchin corner but there was a subdued mood around Top Field despite the knowledge that Banbury were already losing.

Half time - Hitchin Town 1 Biggleswade Town 1

The second half saw both teams trying to get the upper hand. Lucas Perry got in a valuable saving tackle after Dowie's through ball had set up McNamara. Both keepers were kept busy - with Johnson gathering under pressure from a Hoenes free kick while Brown got down to a curling shot from Lench after a good run by Brooks.

Brown, in his penultimate game for the Waders, saved from Wright and then came off his line to deny Brooks who had been put through by Donnelly, while McNamara won a corner only for Dan Webb to get under the ball with his header and clear the crossbar.

Hitchin rang the changes from the bench but still could not break the deadlock. Walster tested Brown with a long range free kick after Brooks had been fouled. There was nearly a perfect finish as a cross from Lench arrived just ahead of former Wader Brett Donnelly but the substitute could not make contact and Hitchin had to settle for a point. 

That point was enough to assure the season is extended by at least one additional match but the odds now heavily favour an away semi-final in the play offs. To host the semi-final, the Canaries need to break the sequence of having not won in five league matches on Saturday at Basignstoke, as well as relying on Hayes and Yeading to shock Merthyr Town.

FINAL SCORE Hitchin Town 1 Biggleswade Town 1

Hitchin Town - Johnson, Wright, Walster, Dowie, Webb, Rolfe, McNamara, C Donnelly, Lench, Brooks, Bickerstaff; subs - Spence (for McNamara), King, Kirkpatrick (for Bickerstaff), B Donnelly (for C Donnelly), Burns
Biggleswade Town - Brown, Patrick, Perry, Parker, Short, Hoyte, Daniel, Rees, Burnett, Vincent, Hoenes; subs - Ives, Gooch, Emery (for Vincent), Hunt (for Perry)

Hitchin Town - Lench (2)
Biggleswade Town - Vincent (45) 

Yellow cards
Hitchin Town - Kirkpatrick
Biggleswade Town - Emery, Hunt

Attendance - 766

Sponsor's Man of the Match - Jay Dowie

Colin, photo by Peter Else

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