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Hitchin Town 0 Cheshunt 1

Tuesday, March 28 2017

Hitchin’s first bid for cup silverware this season ended in defeat against Ryman North side Cheshunt in the Hertfordshire Charity Cup final.

A single goal separated the sides and, despite facing 10 men for the last 30 minutes, all the Canaries’ efforts failed to produce a tangible output.

The side were missing the absent Dan Webb and the injured Kane Smith and Jay Dowie, while Robbie Burns was on the bench having picked up a slight injury. Callum Donnelly and Conor Clarke stepped into the starting eleven.

Both sides went close in the early stages, with Brett Donnelly heading over from a McNamara cross while Cheshunt - who won the first corner - saw Illsley’s header stopped by Spence before the same player followed up with an off-target shot.

Lench forced keeper May to tip aside a dangerous shot after he had received a good pass from Wright. At the other end, Cheshunt’s threat down the centre was also evident. Hope ran onto a long pass and tried to loft the ball over Johnson. The keeper was alert to the situation and turned the ball away for another corner.

Smythe and Rice combined for Cheshunt but Rolfe managed to clear the ball before the best chance of the half fell to Rice. The forward worked his way between two defenders but when facing only Johnson, his composure failed him and he shot over the bar.

Hitchin’s build-up had been less coherent although Spence and Lench had further efforts that went wide. May gathered a Hitchin free kick after Bruno had been harshly carded for a collision with Callum Donnelly when the Cheshunt man could not have seen Donnelly behind him. He was certainly less lucky than Kirkpatrick who had gone through on Hallett earlier only to receive a lecture.

However Hallett was to break the deadlock four minutes before the interval. He raced past the Hitchin defence to latch onto Bruno’s through ball and fire past Johnson. There was a shout that Hallett may have been offside - there were a few questionable calls during the first half - but the goal stood. 

Wright had a half chance to level but nodded Kirkpatrick’s corner over the bar to conclude a disjointed half for the Canaries.

HALF TIME Hitchin Town 0 Cheshunt 1

As expected Hitchin upped the tempo after the break. Brett Donnelly and Lench were both unable to get in a decisive shot as the ball rattled around the Cheshunt area, while McNamara’s shot curled wide when he was well placed at the far post. 

Cheshunt, despite a recent run of poor form and despite losing to Hitchin in the Senior Cup,  still looked dangerous on the attack. Hallett beat Wright only to send in a weak shot which Johnson cleared, while the keeper also cut out a cross after good work by Hallett and Hope.

A Walster special from a freekick cannoned back off the defensive wall and the full back’s follow-up flew just wide.

Goalscorer Hallett was then the centre of attention for a different reason as he clashed with Lench, leaving the Hitchin player flat out. The referee produced a straight red and tellingly there was little dissent from Hallett's teammates.

Hitchin, with Spring having now replaced Spence, pushed for a leveller as Wright fired over after Lench had flicked on a corner. Kirkpatrick fired in a shot which was going wide but McNamara nearly got a deflection on it. 

The ten men of Cheshunt were defending deeper but still looked dangerous on the break. Bruno shot wide after Spring had been dispossessed while the pacy Lutaaya, who had replaced Rice, nearly capitalised on a mix-up between Johnson and Rolfe.

Hitchin threw caution to the wind as Brooks replaced Clarke leaving three at the back. The substitute was thwarted after nearly finishing off good work by McNamara and Wright but Hitchin’s best chance fell to McNamara - back on his parent club’s turf. He got his head to a perfect Lench cross but directed the ball just over the bar. 

Half chances continued even as the game entered 4 minutes of stoppage time. From another free kick, Walster hit the wall and Wright fired the rebound over. Finally Walster picked out Callum Donnelly whose cross was flicked on by Brett Donnelly. However the threat was cleared by a Cheshunt defender before the ball reached McNamara.

FINAL SCORE Hitchin Town 0 Cheshunt 1 

Hitchin had opportunities to win this but Cheshunt harried and defended well throughout - particularly once reduced to ten men when they worked tirelessly - and deserved the trophy for that effort and for their threatening breaks. 

The Canaries now need to ensure that they are not derailed in the league by the Dorchester side that left Top Field with three points barely a month ago and by champions elect Chippenham Town. Then they get the chance to put this result right when returning to Hemel on 11 April for the county’s Senior Cup final. Being a three time “bridesmaid” this season would be tough to take.

Hitchin Town - Johnson, Clarke, Walster, Rolfe, Spence, Wright, McNamara, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, Kirkpatrick, Lench; subs - Brooks (for Clarke), Bennett, Spring (for Spence), King, Burns
Cheshunt - May, Clemo, Thomas, Lampe, Kendall, Illsley, Smythe, Bruno, Hallett, Hope, Rice; subs - Stevens (for Hope), Lutaaya (for Rice), Marshall (for Smythe), Spearman, Fletcher

Cheshunt - Hallett (41)

Red Card
Cheshunt - Hallett

Yellow cards 
Cheshunt - Bruno, Thomas, Lamp

Attendance - tbc

Colin, photo by Peter Else

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