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Hitchin Town 1 Merthyr Town 1

Saturday, September 24 2016

Hitchin and Merthyr began the match separated only by goal difference. After 90 competitive minutes at Top Field they remained level with neither side able to find a winner.

Hitchin welcomed Alasan Ann back for his first start of the season, and also included Lewis McBride, while Callum Donnelly sat out his suspension and Sam Barker was unavailable.

Merthyr started better as it appeared Hitchin might still be suffering an FA Cup hangover. Michael Johnson was called into early action to save from Reffell who had found space to run into the box. The Martyrs opened the scoring on 7 minutes when Curtis McDonald got the final touch on an Elliot Scotcher free-kick despite Dan Webb’s efforts to clear.

It took a quality goal to level the scores after 15 minutes. After an intricate exchange between Robbie Burns and Brett Donnelly, Burns unleashed a shot from outside the area that gave Glyn Garner no chance in the Merthyr goal.

The Canaries now looked more composed and had opportunities through Kane Smith, with a run and shot, and Dan Webb, who headed a free kick back across the face of goal but without locating a team-mate.

Donnelly came close when he got goal side of Baggridge. He tried to control the ball and lob the keeper in one move before the defender got back to challenge. Unfortunately the effort was narrowly over the bar.

Merthyr were disrupted as they forced into two early substitutions. One saw the arrival of Evans, who appeared to foul Matt Lench and who was penalised accordingly. However the referee - who did not have a good game -  then reversed his decision and booked Lench into the bargain.

Ann came closest to giving The Canaries the lead before the interval. His stooping header from a McBride cross was turned away by Garner.

HALF TIME Hitchin Town 1 Merthyr Town 1

McDonald nearly doubled his tally for Merthyr soon after the break. Johnson rushed out to the side of goal to clear but the ball came back for the defender to try and chip into the net. However Hitchin had defenders back to cover.

From then on, Hitchin had the edge.  In a goalmouth scramble both Donnelly and Burns came close to doubling the score but a combination of hurried finishing, Garner’s goalkeeping and woodwork meant they were denied.

Hitchin had to make a change as Smith had taken a knock and Will Wright’s first involvement was to fire in a dangerous cross that hit the post and bounced back into play. Again no-one could get the vital touch on the loose ball. Wright’s next cross was met with a faint header from Lucas Kirkpatrick but the midfielder could not get enough contact and the effort went wide.

Wright nearly turned villain shortly afterwards as he conceded a freekick in a dangerous area beyond the right side of the area, Gavin Williams delivered a low cross which just evaded the onrushing Merthyr attackers. 

The influential Keyon Reffell then had a shot charged down by Stuart Pearson - who had come on for Rolfe - as the Canaries’ defence held firm while Matt Lench came closest to snatching the points for the Canaries. First he curled the ball just over after a good break involving Burns, McBride and Wright, and shortly before the whistle his dipping shot forced Garner to tip the effort over the bar.

FINAL SCORE Hitchin Town 1 Merthyr Town 1 

The afternoon was a success, with a good crowd attending for the annual Youth Day, and the match was entertaining if not enthralling. Hitchin came closer to the win than the visitors as they both move to 15 points in the congested league table. If they can apply the final touch against St Neots on Monday, Hitchin will be back in a play-off berth of only for 24 hours.

Teams 
Hitchin Town - Johnson, Smith, Walster, Ann, Webb, Rolfe, McBride, Kirkpatrick, B Donnelly, Burns, Lench; subs - Wright (for Smith), Barnes (for Ann), Pearson (for Rolfe), Verney, Coley
Merthyr Town - Garner, Wright, Barrow, Tancock, McDonald, Baggridge, Brown, Scotcher, McLaggon, Reffell, Traylor; subs - Williams (for Jenkins), Clarke, Evans (for Brown), Jenkins (for Barrow), Jemmett-Hutson

Goals
Hitchin Town - Burns (15)
Merthyr Town - McDonald (7)

Yellow cards
Hitchin Town - Kirkpatrick, Donnelly, Lench
Merthyr Town - Wright, Evans

Hitchin Town MOTM - Robbie Burns

Attendance - 514

Colin, photos by Peter Else