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St Albans City 2 Hitchin Town 2 (3-5 penalties)

Tuesday, January 10 2017

Hitchin Town pulled off a deserved upset against National League South opposition to keep a firm grip on the Hertfordshire Senior Cup.

They came from two goals down with less than 20 minutes to go to force a penalty shootout against St Albans City. All five Hitchin spot kicks were converted with aplomb while Michael Johnson managed to save Charlie Walker's effort.

While Canaries manager Mark Burke selected a strong side, the hosts also took the game seriously with nine of the starting line-up having appeared in their squad on Saturday.

Hitchin set about St Albans from the start although chances were at a premium in the first half. Johnson tipped an early shot over the bar while Callum Donnelly glanced a header against the post. It was the Canaries that were playing the fluent passing football while St Albans' main weapon was the long throw.

After the break, Johnson saved from the veteran Jamie Cureton while Matt Lench forced James Russell to turn away a header for a corner. 

It was St Albans that broke the deadline on 57 minutes as a long throw was cleared for a corner. From the set piece, an unmarked Tom Gardiner was able to head home. 

Will Wright was on hand to clear off the line from Graeme Montgomery but the Hitchin defence was breached again on 73 minutes. Shaun Lucien cut in from the right flank for goal and his low shot was turned home by Cureton.

The Canaries' showed their resilience though and were back in the game a minute later when Kane Smith nodded home a ball from Lucas Kirkpatrick. 

With time running out, Hitchin pressed for an equaliser. Substitute Liam Brooks forced a save from Russell when he latched on to a cross from Smith and then Lewis Rolfe headed against the crossbar. St Albans were content to hack the ball clear and on occasion employ some rough treatment, particularly on Matt Lench.

On 87 minutes, the pressure finally paid off as Burns chipped a cross from the side of the penalty area and it reached Wright who headed back across the goal to level the scores at 2-2.

Hitchin nearly snatched a win in normal time but Russell dived to save from Brooks and the game went straight to a penalty shoot out.

Ben Walster and Wright scored from the spot as did Matthew Ball for St Albans before Johnson pulled off the vital save. Rolfe and Burns also scored, as did Lucien and Tom Bender for the hosts to make it 4-3. It was left to Kirkpatrick to slam home the decisive effort as Hitchin claimed a semi-final slot at home to either Cheshunt or Leverstock Green.

St Albans City - Russell, Gardiner, Bender, Chappell, Hill, Martin, Lucien, Ball, Cureton, Merson, Montgomery; subs - Theophanous (for Montgomery), Noble, Walker (for Merson), Thomas (for Hill), Swales
Hitchin Town - Johnson, Smith, Walster, Rolfe, Webb, Wright, Spence, C Donnelly, Kirkpatrick, Burns, Lench; subs - Brooks (for Spence), Barnes (for Donnelly), Clarke, Coley

St Albans City - Gardiner (57), Cureton (73)
Hitchin Town - Smith (74), Wright (87)

Penalty shootout
Hitchin Town
Walster - scored
Wright - scored
Rolfe - scored
Burns - scored
Kirkpatrick - scored
St Albans City
Ball - scored
Walker - saved
Lucien - scored
Bender - scored

Yellow cards
St Albans City - Chappell, Martin

Attendance - 183


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