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Chelmsford City 1 Hitchin Town 0

Saturday, December 10 2016

Hitchin Town bowed out of the FA Trophy as one early goal made the difference between the Canaries and their National League South hosts. 

With Brett Donnelly suspended and Robbie Burns unavailable, Mark Burke played Michael King behind Liam Brooks in attack. The reshuffled side barely had time to get aquainted before the decisive moment in the match. 

Hitchin conceded an early freekick which was played across the goal by Haines. It was met at the far post by Shaun Jeffers who had the easy job of slotting the ball home unchallenged with less than two minutes on the clock.

There was a risk that the early setback would knock Hitchin out of their stride and they would be on the end of a painful result. However having cleared a second early freekick from the Clarets, they settled into the game.

Hitchin had an early chance of their own from a set piece as Kane Smith was brought down but no-one was able to get on the end of Ben Walster’s freekick. Smith then sent an effort over and also forced Miller to clear a threatening cross. The Canaries tried to get back into the match with Brooks -  who put in an energetic shift although he did not get much change from the physically imposing Clarets defence - and Walster both firing wide.

Half time - Chelmsford City 1 Hitchin Town 0

The start of the second half saw Chelmsford again threaten and bring out the best in Michael Johnson. The keeper had to make a great double save following a Clarets corner to deny Haines and Jeffers. Haines then wasted a chance at the next corner as he headed wide. 

The Canaries replied as Mason Spence replaced King with Donnelly pushing up. Neither Spence nor Lench could make connection when in good positions in the area, before a Spence shot inside the area was gathered calmly by Fitzsimons. 

Possibly the best chance fell to Dan Webb. Donnelly was fouled by Miller and the captain got a diving header to Walster’s free kick but it flew wide.

Opportunities at the other end were scarce at this point but Johnson had to slide out to take the ball from Jeffers. The goalscorer fell in the area and there were shouts for a penalty but the referee saw it differently and booked Jeffers for simulation.

The Clarets were clocking up yellow cards at this point which was a reflection on the pressure Hitchin had applied. Josh Bickerstaff fired a loose ball over the bar, while the home defence also had to scramble the ball clear after a dangerous Hitchin corner.

Mark Burke threw on Will Wright as Hitchin pushed for an equaliser and the game went into 6 minutes of stoppage time. However the break did not come as Chelmsford’s defence dealt with a cross that Lench looked to get on the end of and with one last freekick into their box. Indeed Johnson had to deny Daley as the sub had an opportunity on the break. 

That was to be the end of the Canaries' FA Trophy journey for this season. Whether the final score might have been different if Brett Donnelly or Burns had been available is open to debate. In many aspects the Canaries matched the Clarets and, post-match,  the hosts were complimentary about Hitchin’s football as well as the Canaries’ support. There is though no time to dwell on what might have been as a tough league match against Redditch United beckons on Monday evening.

Early goal

Final score - Chelmsford City 1 Hitchin Town 0

Teams
Chelmsford City - Fitzsimons, Miller, Graham, Porter, Bush, Haines, Willmott, Rees, Jeffers, Buchanan, Jake Reid; subs - Walsh, Daley (for Reid), Cornhill, Merrifield, Young
Hitchin Town - Johnson, Smith, Walster, Bickerstaff, Webb, Rolfe, Lench, Callum Donnelly, Brooks, King, Kirkpatrick; subs - Wright (for Kirkpatrick), Spence (for King), Hunt, Clarke 

Goal
Chelmsford City - Jeffers (2 mins)

Yellow cards
Chelmsford City - Miller, Bush, Jeffers
Hitchin Town - Smith, Donnelly, Lench

Attendance - 469

Colin, photo by Peter Else




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