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Weymouth 3 Hitchin Town 0

Saturday, April 28 2018

Facing the worst injury crisis of his managerial career Mark Burke was really stretched to put out a team at Weymouth. With thirteen players not available for selection only twelve players were fit to play. Brett Donnelly lined up in central defence alongside Josh Bickerstaff with Toby Syme and Daniel Olaniran the full backs. Charlie Smith and Robbie Burns played in front of the back four and further forward Kieran Barnes recalled from Stotfold played centrally and Jonny McNamara and Trey Charles wide and Patrick Tshikala  on his own up front. Desejado Da Silva was the only fit substitute although three of the injured players made up the numbers on the bench.
 
On an excellent playing surface Hitchin knew they would be up against it with Weymouth chasing a home play-off tie and with a 1,102 attendance demanding victory. But Weymouth did not seem to show great urgency in the first half and the makeshift Hitchin side dealt relatively comfortably with their threat and reached half time on level terms.
 
Michael Johnson was quickly off his line to make a good interception after 21 minutes and the unlikely figure of McNamara made an excellent goalmouth clearance from Josh Carmichael. At the other end McNamara forced keeper Will Dennis in to action after good work by Barnes and just before half time he shot wide from what was Hitchin’s best chance. Tshikala was booked after a number of clumsy challenges.
 
The second half saw Weymouth raise their game and they looked much more dangerous. Johnson saved well from Abdulai Baggie before Barnes, who had a good game, shot over the bar for Hitchin. The breakthrough came after 59 minutes when the defence did not deal with a high ball and Calvin Brooks chipped Johnson to bring relief for the big crowd. Weymouth continued on the front foot and Ben Thomson missed a simple chance.
 
Hitchin continued to work hard despite playing their seventh game in fifteen days. McNamara hit a shot over the bar before the injury curse struck again and Olaniran was forced off with a hamstring injury. Da Silva came on to join Tshikala up front with the defence becoming a back three. Barnes came close with a well struck shot but inevitably gaps began to open up and Weymouth scored twice in the last ten minutes.

Barnes back in action
 
Brandon Goodship is the leading scorer in the league but had been quiet for the majority of the game. However after 81 minutes he produced a brilliant pass that set up Baggie to score and five minutes later scored himself with a brilliant finish for his 38th goal of the season.
 
It is as well this was the last game of the season  with so few players left standing. Burke said he was very pleased with the performance of the players with many playing out of position and to face a side as good as Weymouth with so many key players absent  was too big a mountain to climb. So Hitchin finished in eleventh place with a record of 66 points from 46 games with 19 wins. The BigFreeBet.Com Cup was won meaning silverware for a third successive season but injuries to key players blighted the season with Jack Green, Elliott Bailey, Lucas Kirkpatrick, Jay Dowie and Kieran McCaffrey  in particular missing far too many games.
 
TEAMS
 
WEYMOUTH - Dennis, Wells, Buckley, Zubar, da Silva, Carmichael, McCarthy, Baggie, Thomson, Goodship, Brooks; Subs - Sa, Stewart, Davis for Zubar 71, Baker for Thomson 75, Wakefield for McCarthy 66.
 
HITCHIN - Johnson, Syme, Olaniran, Smith, Donnelly, Bickerstaff, Charles, Tshikala, McNamara, Burns, Barnes; Subs - Da Silva for Olaniran 77, Walster, Kirkpatrick, Bailey.
 
SCORERS
 
WEYMOUTH - Brooks 59, Baggie 81, Goodship 86
 
BOOKINGS
 
HITCHIN - Tshikala, Bickerstaff
 
ATTENDANCE 1,102

Roy Izzard, photo by Peter Else



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