The Canaries and the Generals both entered this FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round tie in good form. Mark Burke’s men were unbeaten in six while the hosts had not lost in nine. However the match did not hit the heights and, for Hitchin Town, it saw an early end to their interest in the Trophy.
In addition to the already injured Trey Charles, Dan Webb was out so Josh Bickerstaff wore the captain’s armband and lined up with Lewis Rolfe in the centre of defence. Michael Johnson, Jay Dowie, Jack Green, Elliot Bailey and Brett Donnelly returned to the starting eleven after Tuesday’s BigFreeBetCom Cup tie. Only four substitutes were named.
The teams tested each other out with ex-Canary Lewis Toomey being crowded out before he could fire in an early shot while Donnelly and Bickerstaff tried to link up to probe the home defence. The best early chance fell to Northampton Town loanee Joe Iaciofano who looked for space across the face of the penalty area before firing just wide.
For 25 minutes neither goalkeeper was seriously tested although Hafed Al-Droubi’s clearances were hurried. Michael Johnson was tested by Adam Watkins and then Toomey did connect only to find the side netting. The rather melodramatic referee did not help the game – and certainly not the Canaries – by resorting quickly to dishing out cards to Donnelly in an incident with Locke and to Bickerstaff.
Iaciofano again probed the Hitchin defence before Jonny McNamara forced a regulation save with a header from a Kavan Cotter cross. Shortly before the break though, Chesham took advantage of some untidy defending as Hitchin failed to clear a 42nd minute free kick and Toomey was first to react with a low drive from an angle.
Half time – Chesham United 1 Hitchin Town 0
After the interval, Chesham maintained the momentum as Johnson first had to save after Toomey and fellow ex-Canary Jhai Dhillon sliced through the Hitchin defence and then gather a headed effort from a freekick. Bickerstaff was also outpaced by Iaciofano but did very well to get back for a vital recovering challenge.
The Canaries defensive efforts paid off as they got back into the game after 53 minutes when Bailey turned to fire home in the penalty area to restore parity.
However any momentum disappeared two minutes later as Hitchin lost possession in midfield. Iaciofano set up Oran Swales whose shot was palmed away by Johnson. The influential midfielder was quickest to react and followed up to claim his fourth goal in successive games.
Hitchin toiled to recover the game with shots from Charlie Smith, Dowie, Donnelly and MCNamara but none seriously tested Al-Droubi, while they struggled for fluency in their approach play.
In fact Chesham had the best chances to kill off the game. A Dhillon corner found the net after Johnson could not hold the delivery. However Toomey was penalised for a foul challenge on the keeper that caused the spill. Lewis Rolfe prevented a certain goal as sub Jon-Jo Bates linked with Iaciofano whose dinked effort was goalbound until the defender hooked the ball off the line.
Hitchin made a last desparate effort to recover the game at the start of stoppage time with Johnson joining everyone else in the Chesham box for a free-kick. However the ploy backfired as the Generals broke quickly. Ben Walster managed to hold up the break with one challenge but the ball fell to Ben Crilley who chipped home to continue his scoring run and end Hitchin’s chances.
Full time – Chesham United 3 Hitchin Town 1
Chesham United – Al-Droubi, Crilley, Dhillon, Bevans, Murphy, Locke, Hutton, Watkins, Toomey, Iaciofano, Swales; subs – McGleish, Bush (Swales), Bates (Hutton), Reynolds (Iaciofano), Pepara
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Cotter, Walster, Dowie, Rolfe, Bickerstaff, Green, Smith, B Donnelly, Bailey, McNamara; subs – Vincent (B Donnelly) , C Donnelly (Green), Kirkpatrick (Dowie), Da Silva
Chesham United – Toomey (42), (55), Crilley (90)
Hitchin Town – Bailey (53)
Chesham United – Locke
Hitchin Town – B Donnelly, Bickerstaff, Dowie, Rolfe
Attendance – 297