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Stratford Town 3 Hitchin Town 2

Saturday, August 20 2016

This was another disappointing defeat for Hitchin as they fell victim to two 25 yard thunderbolts from Jamie Sheldon. Team news was mixed with Lucas Kirkpatrick joining Alasan Ann, Sam Barker, Ben Walster, Josh Bickerstaff and Zac Barrett on the sidelines but Dan Webb returned and there was the welcome return of Kane Smith who was on the bench. Mark Burke continued with a 3-5-2 formation with Lewis Rolfe playing in front of Will Wright, Webb and Stuart Pearson who were the defensive trio.
Conditions were not easy as a strong and blustery wind made good football very difficult. Matt Lench, Callum Donnelly and Liam Brooks all had efforts on goal before Stratford took a surprise lead in the 13th minute when Daniel Summerfield took advantage of some sloppy defending to score from close range.
Hitchin hit back immediately and in the next minute Brooks scored a fine goal from a difficult angle. It got even better for Hitchin when they took the lead after 21 minutes. Mason Spence provided a brilliant cross and Pearson thundered home an unstoppable header. Spence came so close to a third goal when his well hit shot smashed against the bar and Hitchin were looking the better team at this point in the game.
Sheldon then produced the first of his two goals as he scored from 25 yards giving Michael Johnson no chance in the 38th minute. Spence came close again when he shot just wide but it remained level at half time.
The Stratford manager reacted to the first half by replacing both centre backs and another shot from distance after 54 minutes from that man Sheldon put Stratford ahead. Again Johnson had no chance as the shot was so well placed. In the words of Burke, Hitchin then "huffed and puffed" but were not convincing and did not produce the football they are capable of.
There were chances though and Webb headed just wide while keeper Nathan Vaughan did well to save a Robbie Burns free kick. Lewis McBride, Brett Donnelly and Smith came on in the last 20 minutes but Hitchin’s usual cohesion was missing and in truth the equaliser did not look like coming despite Webb forcing another good save from Vaughan in the last minute. Indeed Vaughan was named man of the match but Hitchin will know they can play better than this performance.
At the moment the absentees are not helping Hitchin while the midfield has not really fired yet this season and more goals are being conceded than usual. But it is still early days and there is certainly no need to panic and when the missing players return there is no reason to doubt an upturn in fortunes will follow.
Stratford - Vaughan, Summerfield, Westwood, Clark, Francis, Delfouneso, Sheldon, Grocott, Gregory, Ahenkorah, Brathwaite; Subs - Fitzharris for Gregory 76, Brooks for Francis HT, Tulloch, Cullinane-Liburd for Delfouneso HT, Angus
Hitchin - Johnson, Wright, Rolfe, Lench, Webb, Pearson, Spence, C Donnelly, Brooks, Burns, Barnes; Subs - B Donnelly for Burns 76, McBride for Brooks 69, Coley, A Barker, Smith for Barnes 79
Stratford - Summerfield (13), Sheldon (38, 54)
Hitchin - Brooks (14), Pearson (21)
Stratford - Clark, Gregory and Grocott
Hitchin - C Donnelly, Pearson and McBride
Attendance - 176
Roy Izzard

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