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Hitchin Town 2 Cirencester Town 1

Monday, March 6 2017

The Canaries returned to winning ways with a decisive late penalty from Will Wright. The performance wasn’t fluent but it was just enough to overcome a determined Cirencester Town who were scrapping for points at the other end of the table.

Hitchin lined up with Conor Clarke - recalled from his spell at Northwood - covering for the injured Josh Bickerstaff. There were also two new faces on the bench - Jay Dowie, who had signed last week, and Matthew Spring who had signed dual registration forms earlier in the day.

The Centurions lined up with an experienced eleven including both Alan and Charlie Griffin. Both sides started tentatively and Michael Johnson was called into action to gather a couple of Cirencester freekicks, while Callum Donnelly and Kane Smith both fired over for Hitchin.

The Canaries came closest when Wright flicked on a Lucas Kirkpatrick freekick but the visiting defence cleared. However other set piece opportunities were wasted and in open play too many over ambitious passes were played. Garner was tested less than Johnson and Hitchin’s play did not even yield a corner in the first period. 

Kane Smith fashioned one last dangerous cross which no-one in the box could connect with but it was a disjointed first half and there was a nagging doubt that Cirencester would do what Dorchester had done seven days earlier.

Half time - Hitchin Town 0 Cirencester Town 0

The start of the second half did nothing to dispel that doubt as Johnson had to save from Bennett before the forward turned provider, setting up Spalding for a shot that flew across the face of the goal.

Hitchin started to turn the tide as Spring came on for Lewis Rolfe and Brett Donnelly replaced Callum. Robbie Burns put Matt Lench through but his shot was off target, while the number 11 then nearly forced an own goal as Garner had to save from Coupe's attempted clearance. 

Cirencester were determined to hang onto their point by any means and a different referee might have awarded more yellow cards than Mr Hanna did - player manager Griffin was certainly lucky not to pick up an earlier booking. 

On 70 minutes, Hitchin finally broke the deadlock when Spring, who had bought some composure to Hitchin’s play, fired in a low shot from outside the area which took a deflection to finally beat Garner. 

However Cirencester bounced back quickly and, on 77 minutes, a Spalding cross was met by Charlie Griffin who levelled the scores with a header that gave Johnson no chance.

The final decisive incident came on 84 minutes after Diaz-Benitez had conceded a free kick for upending Lench. The set piece ended with Garner punching Dan Webb as both went for the ball. The referee awarded a penalty but before it could be taken the officials also had to break up heated exchanges between the two teams - although only Brett Donnelly was booked. Will Wright though remained composed after the delay and converted the spot kick perfectly to regain the lead.

Although Cirencester threw men forward in search of a second equaliser, the Canaries’ defence held firm to secure a vital three points ahead of Saturday’s top of the table clash with Slough.

Final score - Hitchin Town 2 Cirencester Town 1

Hitchin Town - Johnson, Smith, Clarke, Rolfe, Webb, Wright, Spence, Callum Donnelly, Kirkpatrick, Burns, Lench; subs - Brett Donnelly (for Callum Donnelly), Bennett, Brooks, Dowie (for Spence), Spring (for Rolfe)
Cirencester Town - Garner, Diaz-Benitez, Dunton, Mortimer-Jones, Liddiard, Coupe, Charlie Griffin, Connolly, Alan Griffin, Bennett, Spalding; subs - Thompson (for Diaz-Benitez), May, Rose, Hunt

Hitchin Town - Spring (70), Wright (84, pen)
Cirencester Town - A Griffin (77)

Yellow cards
Hitchin Town - Spring, Brett Donnelly
Cirencester Town - Liddiard, Alan Griffin, Diaz-Benitez

Attendance - 340

Hitchin Town MOTM - Matt Lench

Colin, photo by Peter Else

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