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Hitchin Town 4 St Neots Town 1

Monday, September 26 2016

Hitchin Town may not enjoy their cup football on Monday nights but have now scored four in two consecutive midweek league matches. Following the 4-0 win at Cambridge City a fortnight ago, they also put four past St Neots to move back into the play-off slots, at least for 24 hours.

The only change from Saturday’s starting eleven saw Will Wright replace Kane Smith, who had gone off with a knock against Merthyr. 

The visitors had an early penalty shout after Lewis Rolfe was caught in possession in front of goal by Rogers and won the ball back with a forceful shoulder charge. Cries for a spot kick were not heeded. Rogers then got in an angled shot which Johnson saved, before a dangerous cross from Hall reached Hawkins. The attacker was under pressure though and couldn’t get a clean header. 

Following the early substitution of ex-Canary Rogan McGeorge, Hitchin took the lead through a well worked goal. Brett Donnelly set Ben Walster off along the left flank and his low cross was met at the near post by Matt Lench.

St Neots bounced back almost immediately with a textbook goal from a corner. Rogers delivered and Tom Ward met it with an emphatic header on 17 minutes.

Lench was denied a second goal when he turned in a Walster free-kick. However the officials signalled for offside although it was clear that a defender was on the line.

St Neots were not out of the game though as a poor ball at the back from Walster was pounced on and Johnson was forced to save. Walster and Kirkpatrick then had to double up to stop a jinking run by Hawkins.

Hitchin also had chances as Robbie Burns shot off target after good work by Lench and Alasan Ann. Brett Donnelly also came close first with a shot that was cleared for a corner by Smith, and then nearly connecting with a cut back from McBride after the winger battled well to win possession.

A second Hitchin goal did arrive just before the interval though and it was worth waiting for. Wright picked up the ball on the halfway line and drove towards goal. He played a 1-2 with Donnelly, advanced into the area and showed great composure to slot home past Archer.

HALF TIME Hitchin Town 2 St Neots Town 1

St Neots went in search of a second half equaliser with Wright blocking a Roberts effort - although the flag had already been raised anyway - and Rogers wasting a freekick in a dangerous position after a misplaced pass by Ann brought about a foul. 

Hitchin also wasted a free kick after McBride had been fouled but a third goal came on the hour as a result of a misplaced ball by Patrick for St Neots. Lench took possession, lifted the ball to Burns in front of goal and the striker kept a cool head to finish.

Brett Donnelly continued to come close to getting on the scoresheet. First he sent a Wright cross just wide and then got in front of Webb to head over after a corner when the defender might have been better placed. Just before he was subbed, the number 9 tested Archer with a shot from a low cross after Lench and Walster again did the groundwork. 

Donnelly was replaced by Verney who was making his debut but it was Burns who wrapped up the scoring on 74 minutes. He won possession midway into the St Neots half and passed wide to McBride who returned the ball with a curling cross for Burns to divert past Archer.

The substitute striker nearly had a dream debut as Hitchin saw the game out. Lucas Kirkpatrick did well to ride two clumsy tackles, and played the ball out to Kieran Barnes whose cross was headed wide by Verney.

FINAL SCORE Hitchin Town 4 St Neots Town 1

The win was comprehensive although set pieces at both ends caused problems and there was some careless loss of possession. However there was also plenty of entertaining and fluent football played on the deck and Hitchin will want to repeat that in their visit to struggling Cirencester on Saturday.

Hitchin Town - Johnson, Wright, Walster, Ann, Webb, Rolfe, McBride, Kirkpatrick, B Donnelly, Burns, Lench; subs - Smith, Barnes (for McBride), Pearson, Verney (for B Donnelly), C Donnelly (for Ann)
St Neots Town - Archer, Smith, Hall, McGeorge, T Ward, C Ward, Hawkins, Clark, Rogers, Hyem, Patrick; subs - Haywood (for Hall), Wood (for McGeorge), Hobbs, Mason, Spark (for Hyem)

Hitchin Town - Lench (13), Wright (42), Burns (60, 74)
St Neots Town - T Ward (17)

Yellow cards
Hitchin Town - B Donnelly
St Neots Town - Haywood

Hitchin Town MOTM - Matt Lench

Attendance - 346

Colin, photos by Peter Else

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