Hitchin’s trialists and squad players struggled to make a mark as they went down to a committed Eagles side. A well-take early goal by Canary legend Carl Williams and a very dubious penalty saw the hosts take a two goal lead. Elliot Bailey’s close range finish set up the finale but the Canaries failed to find a finish as clinical as that of their ex-boss.
The Canaries began with Sam Swanton in goal, Kieran Barnes and Michael Simpson playing at the back with James Budden and Anthony Araba, while Brett Donnelly and Elijah McDonald paired up in attack.
However the Eagles opened the scoring inside 10 minutes when Swanton appeared to misjudge a deep freekick. The ball rebounded off the crossbar and finally fell to Williams who rolled back the years to take advantage with a controlled angled volley.
Hitchin lacked cohesion and the main threat came from Josh Coley’s lively running. He cut the ball back for McDonald but the striker fired wide, before trying his own luck and curling a shot just over the bar.
First period – LGC Eagles 1 Hitchin Town 0
The game was played in three periods of 30 minutes. Donnelly and Barnes went close after the first break before the talking point of the second period. A neat through ball sent an Eagles’ runner into the box but Budden got back to make what looked like a good defensive challenge. The referee saw things differently and pointed to the spot. The hosts’ Number 10 made no mistake from the spot to double the lead on 40 minutes.
Swanton joined the Canaries’ casualty list after tipping aside an Eagles’ shot. He sustained a shoulder injury from the resultant corner and had to be replaced by Michael Johnson.
As the second period came to a close, two other substitutes got into the game – Reynaldo Carbon firing a free kick just wide and Zac Decker setting up Coley who was also off target.
Second period – LGC Eagles 2 Hitchin Town 0
As the final period got under way, Simpson – who had a positive game – tried his luck with a shot that was deflected. However his next involvement was a good run and cross from the right flank. Donnelly and Bailey were waiting in the area and the latter turned the ball home for his first goal for the Canaries to reduce the deficit with some 25 minutes to play.
Hitchin searched for the equaliser as the Eagles’ keeper blocked when Carbon was put through on goal. Budden got under his header from a McCaffrey corner before Coley again shot wide after doing well to make space for himself. The home keeper collected a Donnelly header before Simpson and Decker combined to set up Carbon who could not deliver a clean shot.
The game finished with Budden again going close from a corner but Letchworth hung on for the win.
Hitchin were playing with a weaker side than was originally anticipated, given the unexpected extra game against Luton, and the changes may have impacted on the team’s fluency. The Canaries now have an early start on Saturday against Baldock Town to try and find the right blend ahead of the new campaign.
Final score – LGC Eagles 2 Hitchin Town 1
Hitchin Town team – Swanton (Johnson), Simpson, Barnes, Araba, Budden, McCaffrey, Riley (Decker), Bailey (Mitchell), Brett Donnelly, McDonald (Carbon), Coley
Hitchin Town goal – Bailey (65)