Hitchin Town chalked up their second successive away win as they came from a goal down to defeat ten man St Ives with two late strikes.
The Canaries started with the same eleven that had begun at Frome on Saturday against a St Ives team scrapping to stay clear of the drop zone. The first half struggled to spark into life. Hitchin suffered an early set back as Brett Donnelly had to be substituted after 18 minutes, with Trey Charles stepping in and Elliot Bailey playing further forward.
Neither keeper had been meaningfully tested in nearly 30 minutes and it took a penalty to break the deadlock. Michael Johnson had done well to thwart Dudi Ogbonna after the forward was put through by Phil Draycott. From the ensuing corner, Josh Bickerstaff brought his man down and the referee pointed to the spot. James Hall gave Johnson no chance from the spot.
Hitchin continued to press for an equaliser but got no closer than a shot from Charles that cleared the bar. At the other end, St Ives might have extended their lead had Hall got a better connection on a free kick from Ben Seymour-Shove.
Moments later, St Ives went into the break a goal to the good, just as they had done at Top Field in the reverse fixture back in September.
Half time – St Ives Town 1 Hitchin Town 0
The Canaries showed increased urgency after the break as both sides pushed forward. Johnson blocked an effort from St Ives’ Hall while Connor Vincent had a penalty shout rejected as he was pressured off the ball by Miles Smith.
However a Canaries leveller did come on 54 minutes and it was a decisive moment in the game. Trey Charles slotted a pass through to Jonny McNamara who had three efforts on goal stopped. The last block though was from defender Dan Moyes who used his hand to keep the ball out. The referee brandished a straight red card and also pointed to the spot. Lucas Kirkpatrick took on the task of converting and did so confidently.
Despite being down to ten men, St Ives did not immediately wilt. They defended deep and Hitchin struggled to unlock the hosts’ defence – at one point Bailey and Charles both going for the same shot.
St Ives also continued to break whenever they got the chance – Draycott had a shot turned away while ex-Canary Rogan McGeorge nearly made an opportunity as he charged down a Hitchin clearance.
As the game entered it’s final phase, Goff saved well from Bailey who also had an effort questionably disallowed for offside, while Vincent fired over the bar. Goff then turned away a Charles effort but, while the first corner was cleared, Charlie Smith’s second was glanced home by Bickerstaff just as the game approached stoppage time.
With the game stretched, Hitchin added a third with the last kick of the game. Bailey was put through by McNamara after a fluent break for the best goal of the game.
The win propelled Hitchin into 8th place in the Evostik League South ahead of a local derby at Top Field this Saturday against struggling Dunstable Town, kick off 3pm.
St Ives Town – Goff, Smith, Jarrold, Moyes, Groves, McGeorge, Seymour-Shove, MacGowan, Hall, Ogbonna, Draycott; Subs – Ferrell (for Ogbonna), Wright (for Draycott), Kelly (for Seymour-Shove)
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Syme, Bickerstaff, Rolfe, Webb, Kirkpatrick, Bailey, Vincent, Donnelly, McNamara, Smith; Subs – Charles (for Donnelly), Barnes, Da Silva, Cotter (for Syme), Walster.
St Ives Town – Hall (pen 29)
Hitchin Town – Kirkpatrick (pen 54), Bickerstaff (89) and Bailey (90+ 2)
St Ives Town – Moyes
St Ives Town – McGeorge