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Hitchin Town 2 Slough Town 3

Saturday, March 11 2017

Slough Town leapfrogged play off rivals Hitchin Town, snatching an early two goal lead which left the Canaries playing catch up.

Mark Burke handed Jay Dowie a first start and Conor Clarke continued at full back with Walster and Bickerstaff unavailable. Matt Spring, Lewis Rolfe and Matt Lench were also both absent while Jonny McNamara started on the bench.†

The Rebels punished two early slips by the home defence. In the second minute, the ball bounced over Will Wright and into the path of Simon Dunn. He squared the ball for Warren Harris to convert.†

Four minutes later, a Slough corner flew past the back post only for Flood to return it back in. Michael Johnson spilled the ball under pressure and it dropped to Guy Hollis who converted from ten yards.

Hitchin struggled to impose themselves on the game although they did fashion a string of half chances. Wright skied a Kirkpatrick free kick over the bar, Spence had a debateable shout for a penalty as he appeared to be nudged by Dobson as he tried to get to a cross from Callum Donnelly. Brett Donnelly had a header saved by Alan Walker-Harris and the goalie then tipped aside a shot from Jay Dowie.

At the other end, Slough still looked dangerous and their movement gave Hitchinís central defence a hard challenge. Dobson jinked his way into the box only to be stopped by Clarke.†
However, Hitchin grabbed a lifeline on 38 minutes when Brett Donnelly beat Nisbet to a long ball and chipped the keeper, following itís path to make sure it crept just inside the upright.

The Canaries nearly equalised when Clarke found Brett Donnelly. His shot was blocked and ran to Spence whose effort went wide and just out of the reach of the onrushing Kane Smith.†

Half time - Hitchin Town 1 Slough Town 2

The cagey opening to the second half was punctuated by a delightful turn and run from the halfway line by Smith who was crowded out when he reached the Slough area, and an injury to Callum Donnelly.

However, the complexion of the game changed again on the hour when Dan Webb challenged Mark Nisbet †and the referee pointed to the spot when the latter went down. James Dobson made no mistake from the spot to restore the two goal margin. The Hitchin players were unhappy with the penalty award although Nisbet did have to be substituted soon after the incident.

Hitchin battled back as Brett Donnelly headed against the bar. Kane Smith forced a clearance off the line from Sean Fraser while Robbie Burns was thwarted by Walker-Harris.†
At the other end, Slough still threatened and Johnson saved comfortably from Dunn before making a more urgent save from Flood after Dobson had again started the move.

Smith did fire through a crowded area to reduce the deficit on 79 minutes but there was to be no equaliser. Harris had a chance of a fourth for Slough but scuffed his shot after a good run by Dobson.

Hitchin have hit a sticky patch just as the season is reaching itís final stretch. However, there were plus points from the game, with Dowie looking steady in midfield and Clarke settling into his task but the side needs itís absent players back to offer more options in the coming weeks.†

Canary boss Mark Burke was downbeat after the match, admitting title hopes had been dashed. "The better side won. To give a very good team like Slough a two goal head start meant there was a mountain to climb. I didnít see the penalty incident but my players are not happy about the decision. Hopes of the Championship have gone so weíve got to concentrate on the play offs and finish as high as we can to get home advantage."

Full time - Hitchin Town 2 Slough Town 3

Hitchin Town - Johnson, Smith, Clarke, Dowie, Webb, Wright, Spence, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, Burns, Kirkpatrick; Subs - Brooks for Spence, Bennett, McNamara for C Donnelly, Riley, Ann
Slough Town - Walker-Harris, Fraser, Smart, Hollis, Nisbet, Togwell, Dobson, Dunn, Webb, Flood, Harris; Subs - Stonehouse for Nisbet, Jackman, Putman, James for Flood, Bunting
Unused subs Jackman, Putman, Bunting

Hitchin Town - B Donnelly 38, Smith 79
Slough Town - Harris 2, Hollis 6, Dobson 60 (pen)

Yellow cards
Hitchin Town - C Donnelly, Burns, Webb
Slough Town - Hollis

Hitchin Town MOTM - Kane Smith

Attendance - 828

Colin, MOTM photo by Peter Else