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Hitchin Town 1 Chippenham Town 3

Saturday, April 8 2017

Chippenham Town's clinical finishing saw off Hitchin Town at Top Field and extended the Bluebirds unbeaten run to 23 matches. They almost have both hands on the Southern League Premier Division title.
Hitchin were without the suspended Callum Donnelly although Brett Donnelly had recovered from his injury at Dorchester and wore the armband. Dan Webb and Josh Bickerstaff returned to the subs bench.

Hitchin may have breathed a sigh of relief when Chippenham’s top scorer Adam Sandell went off injured within the first 20 minutes. However, by that time the visitors were already ahead. On 11 minutes a long throw into the Hitchin box was only half cleared. It fell to Nuno Felix and his low shot sneaked inside the post despite Michael Johnson getting a hand on the ball.

Chippenham extended their lead on 29 minutes as Hitchin again failed to deal with a set piece following a needless foul on Jake Andrews who was running away from goal on the wing. The visitor’s first effort from the resulting free kick was half cleared but fell to Ryan Baggridge at the far post and he had an easy task to convert.

The Canaries pushed to get back into the game. A low McNamara reached Robbie Burns but he could not capitalise, while Matt Lench headed over. 

Hitchin were thrown a lifeline on 42 minutes. Robbie Burns was brought down in the box and Will Wright was nerveless as he converted the spotkick.

Half time - Hitchin Town 1 Chippenham Town 2

The Canaries matched Chippenham for possession as the combination of Jonny McNamara and Kane Smith threatened down the right. However Chitty in the Chippenham goal was not really tested as his defence stood firm and Hitchin’s final ball lacked quality.

The visitors restored their two goal lead after 57 minutes following an Andrews free kick as Will Richards converted with a superb overhead strike from an angle.

Chippenham then had a chance disallowed when a Tindle freekick was played on by Andrews. Johnson fumbled under pressure from Pratt and the ball was slotted home only for play to be called back for the foul on the keeper. In turn, Hitchin thought they had pulled one back as Smith followed up a McNamara back header. However Smith was controversially penalised for offside. 

Lucas Kirkpatrick fired over the crossbar from distance while Matt Lench shot into the side netting from a Kirkpatrick corner. The quality from set pieces was variable and this was exemplified by a late free kick in a dangerous position which previously Ben Walster might have blasted - on this occasion he dummied and Burns fired into the defensive wall. 

The Bluebirds were able to see out the game and might have added a fourth only for Matt Smith to chip over Johnson but wide of goal.

The final whistle sparked jubilant scenes amongst the travelling players and supporters, showing the importance of the three points. Chippenham can clinch the title over the Bank Holiday weekend but Hitchin's immediate concern is to get back to winning ways against Bishops Stortford in the Herts Senior Cup. After that comes the match at Banbury which now assumes greater significance in the push for play-off places.

Full time - Hitchin Town 1 Chippenham Town 3

Hitchin Town - Johnson, Smith, Walster, Dowie, Rolfe, Wright, McNamara, Kirkpatrick, Brett Donnelly, Burns, Lench; Subs - Spence, Bennett, King (for McNamara), Bickerstaff, Webb (for Wright)
Chippenham Town - Chitty, Bowman, Felix, Baggridge, Tindle, Richards, Ferguson, Smith, Pratt, Sandell, Andrews; Subs - Jones (for Andrews), Guthrie (for Sandell), Horgan (for Baggridge), Beeden, Pook

Hitchin Town - Wright (pen) 42
Chippenham Town - Felix 11, Baggridge 29, Richards 57

Yellow cards
Hitchin Town - Smith, Walster

Hitchin Town MOTM - Lucas Kirkpatrick

Attendance - 812

Colin, photo Peter Else