Eliza Doolittle may have struggled to say ‘In Hertfordshire, Hereford and Hampshire hurricanes hardly happen’ but champions Hereford cruised to victory on a very rainy evening which no doubt accounted for the lower than expected attendance at Top Field.
Squeezing in the final fixtures for the end of season deadline meant changes and there were five for the Bulls and four for the Canaries, including a recall from Potters Bar Town of the on loan James Budden. Also recalled for the hosts was Brett Donnelly who had two roles tonight, starting as a striker and then, through a substitution, reverting to the back four. I might add sotto voce that he also missed a sitter with a one on one.
This twice postponed game was still eagerly awaited and Hereford went on to add to the record number of points, having surpassed the record set by Chippenham Town. It was more or less a routine win, but Hitchin in a fair first half came within an inch of drawing first blood with their Cunning Corner Routine, with the shot hitting the underside of the bar. Had the whole of the ball crossed the line then the Canaries would have taken the lead.
The rain meant I sat in the Press Box, forsaking my pipe, and found myself next to a chap who sat on his dignity and informed me he was BBC Hereford and Worcester and had an impressive variety of equipment as well as a wonderfully subtle bias. When the opening showed not much happening he injected a degree of excitement into his commentary as well as informing his audience of latest scores in various other games.
After about ten minutes of mutual probing, there was a shot from Mike McGrath which was put out for a corner, adequately defended by Robbie Burns. Players were wary of the slippery pitch and not enamoured of the increasing rain that was highlighted by the floodlights. A Hereford foul on the edge of the penalty area was sent in by Charlie Smith but Will Puddy gathered safely. A cross from the busy James Bowen saw a fair header form Mike Symons that was held by Michael Johnson.
A move instigated by Brett Donnelly brought a corner for Hitchin – and this was a carbon copy of the move at Kettering where Josh Bickerstaff had an unintentional air shot. This time he connected and the ball struck the underside of the bar and the hosts were just a little unfortunate that they did not take the lead.
The effort did bring another corner that was dealt with summarily. Hereford reacted well and had the greater possession as they began to impose themselves on the Canaries. A good move involving Lance Smith, Jennison Myrie-Williams and skipper Ryan Green saw a dangerous cross cleared. The Bulls pushed forward patiently, saw a decent shot saved, but their class became increasingly apparent.
The opening goal came just after the half-hour mark where a cross from the impressive James Bowen was neatly headed in by Pablo Heysham. It was a deft move and finished well. My appreciation of this clinical piece of football was somewhat marred by an unsolicited phone call from Camberley in Surrey angrily inquiring why I had not collected my take-away order. Wrong number I said, to no avail, and added that I was at a football match in Hitchin in Hertfordshire (where hurricanes hardly happen) which was a lot more important than their soggy noodles awaiting collection by person or persons unknown to me.
If the Hereford strike was perhaps cunningly opportunistic- we then saw one of those situations where the off-side is gleefully avoided and Brett Donnelly bore down upon the Hereford goalie, with time to choose which foot he will score with. Well, he seemed to have too much time and when he did unleash his venom, the strike hit the trailing foot of Will Puddy and the chance was lost. I did reflect that the execrations by nearby supporters directed at Mr Donnelly matched the exact word I was assailed with by the Camberley take- away emporium.
Hereford may have lorded it with the classy stuff but those two definite goal chances may well have altered matters. Indeed, shortly after this bit of unfulfilled excitement, Jennison Myrie-Williams ought to have scored number two, but it flashed past the post. A shot, close to half-time by Dara O’ Shea hit the side netting. By now Hitchin had lost what rhythm they had worked hard to achieve and as the match progressed they were, but of one or two unforced errors decidedly second best.
There was one moment when Spring, industrious as ever, combined with Vincent but the Bulls’ keeper was equal to the task. Hitchin had played well but the feeling was that the champions were still in a low gear and were seeing it all through. But with just a one goal deficit, there was always a chance to get back into the game. Hereford are not invulnerable as King’s Lynn, who did the double over them have shown. But they are a disciplined outfit and they know how to defend a lead and increase it with patience and solid counter play.
If there is disappointment it was in the muted response from Hitchin after the interval. The substitution of Jonny McNamara injected some urgency and this fiery lad almost bagged a goal via an error but it really was the imposition of the champions that highlighted this second period. They had the swagger of the top team they are and they added two goals to make sure that their superiority was firmly established, as it was in the corresponding fixture at Edgar Street.
This is not to say that Hitchin relented. There was some good stuff in rare moments, so to speak, but the visitors’ second goal was almost plucked from the air when Lance Smith, who had wastefully blasted over the bar when accuracy appeared easier, atoned for this rush of blood by slotting in number two after about fifty minutes. Yes, the ball fell opportunely for him, but you still have to finish – and he did, apparently with his kneecap, but they all count.
Hitchin did what they could and they were not without opportunity. An amusing, or alarming slip, depending on your entrenched loyalties saw the visiting keeper almost let in the vivacious McNamara, only to recover skilfully and rightfully gain the applause of all and sundry.
The Bulls third and final goal was similar to Donnelly’s aversion of off-side, but Jennison Myrie-Williams (whose name belongs, I felt, to a minor character in a novel by Trollope) slipped in number three and it was all up with the Canaries, with barely five minutes to go. The rain had eased but the away pressure had not. No complaints then, except it would have been nice to score at least one goal in the two league meetings.
Hitchin complete their league programme with an away visit to Weymouth on Saturday.
Michael Johnson, Toby Syme, Daniel Olaniran, Kevin Byrne, (Jonny McNamara), James Budden, (Tremayne Charles), Josh Bickerstaff, captain, Matthew Spring, Charlie Smith, Brett Donnelly, Robbie Burns, Connor Vincent.
Other substitutes- Patrick Tshikala, Kieran Barnes and Desejado Da Silva.
Will Puddy, Dara O’Shea, James Bowen, Billy Murphy, (Elliott Richards), Ryan Green, captain, Jordan Liburd, Lance Smith (GOAL,50), (Cameron Pring) Mike McGrath, Jennison Myrie-Williams, (GOAL, 85), Pablo Heysham, (GOAL, 31,), Mike Symons.
Other substitutes- Jack Deaman, John Mills and Martin Horsell.
Referee- Wayne chalmers, assisted by Corey Snuggs and John Wynne.