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Hitchin Town 2 Bishops Stortford 1

Tuesday, April 11 2017

HItchin overcame higher division opposition to retain the Hertfordshire Senior Cup at Hemel's ground. A goal in each half from Will Wright - both from corners - secured the win against Bishops Stortford and, but for a string of saves by Harry Voss in the opposition goal, Hitchin could have won comfortably as they started to look like the team that had been playing so well a few weeks ago.

With Matt Lench injured and Jonny McNamara cup-tied, Dan Webb and Josh Bickerstaff returned to the line-up with Lewis Rolfe slotting into the centre of midfield and Bickerstaff and Jay Dowie providing width along with the fullbacks.

After Mark Burke had bemoaned conceding early goals in recent games, the Canaries did just that on 7 minutes when Correy Davidson - having already tried his luck once - pounced on lax defending in front of goal to open the scoring. However Hitchin were on this occasion undeterred as the game turned into an open and even contest with Dowie and Rolfe both having efforts saved by Voss. 

At the other end, Stortford's main threats came from the running of Evans Kouassi and the efforts of Davidson with the two combining as the latter's header was cleared away by Dan Webb. Webb and Burns both had efforts on the Blues' goal but the game changed just after the half hour as Voss did very well to tip a Donnelly header over for a corner. The Blues failed to deal with the set piece and Wright was quickest to react and slammed the ball into the roof of the net to equalise.

Hitchin could sense that they were back in the game and Kane Smith nearly created havoc as he ran from deep in his own half into the heart of the Blues' area only to be crowded out at the last. Dowie then had a shot that Voss palmed away and the assistant flagged offside against the attackers rushing in to follow up.

Stortford were still threatening and just before the interval, Davidson fired across the face of the Hitchin goal but the game was nicely poised at the break.

HALF TIME Hitchin 1 Bishops Stortford 1

If the first half was even, the Canaries came out determined to take the second period. Wright flicked a set piece short corner just wide, while Voss again produced a great save to deny a Bickerstaff far post header. Hitchin went close again when Dowie sent in a cross that unfortunately reared up off the surface so Burns could not get direction on his header.

Emmanuel Adebowale - familiar from encounters with Hayes & Yeading this season - was booked for conceding a free kick with Ben Walster's effort deflected wide. 

But Hitchin were not to be denied as, on 71 minutes, Voss was again unrewarded for a great save when he managed to tip over a Kirkpatrick shot from outside the box at the expense of a corner. The set piece was almost a replica of the earlier one as the Blues' defence failed to clear, Wright reacted quickest to the loose ball and fired home again from a slightly tighter angle.

Kouassi attempted to drag Stortford back into the game, forcing a corner after he broke towards the Hitchin goal. The resulting corner was directed just wide by Luke Callendar. However Hitchin were the dominant side and their confidence to pass the ball fluently had returned with both Dowie and Webb coming close to a third goal.

There were some understandably nervy moments as the game approached stoppage time. Johnson did well to turn a Ryan Richefond effort aside for a corner and the defence held firm even with Voss in the Canaries' box. The ball was hacked away and Dowie even tried to direct it towards the vacant Blues' goal. However it didn't matter as the referee blew time. Hitchin had deservedly retained the trophy and the celebrations began amongst the Canary players and fans who comprised most of the 325 in attendance. 

FINAL SCORE Hitchin Town 2 Bishops Stortford 1 

Hitchin's record against National League South opposition this season now stands at 3 wins and one narrow defeat. If they can build on this performance starting at Banbury on Saturday, then they may get the chance to test themselves more regularly at that level.

Hitchin Town - Johnson, Smith, Walster, Dowie, Webb, Wright, Rolfe, Kirkpatrick, B Donnelly, Burns, Bickerstaff; subs - Spence, Bennett, King (for Donnelly), Brooks, Riley
Bishops Stortford - Voss, Richefond, Williams, Taiwo, Adebowale, Rogers, Davidson, Hickford, Callendar, Kouassi, Greene; subs - Ford (for Greene), Harris, Kabeya (for Davidson), Ronto (for Hickford) 

Hitchin Town - Wright (34, 71)
Bishops Stortford - Davidson (7)

Yellow cards
Hitchin Town - Bickerstaff
Bishops Stortford - Adebowale

Attendance - 325

Colin, photo Peter Else

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