Hitchin Town 1 Biggleswade Town 0


Southern League 2021-22

Top Field68 Fishponds Rd, Hitchin SG5 1NU, UK

Hitchin Town
Biggleswade Town
1 - 0
Final Score


A bumper crowd of just four short of 800 witnessed a crucial relegation encounter as well as a local derby, with Hitchin just edging it with the only goal of the game, which, with the points gained, elevated them to third from bottom, whilst consigning the Bedfordshire side to the basement.

It was however, a close run thing, and the Waders, dominating the second half, came very close to snatching an equaliser, since they had no option but to push hard with more direct football.

Before the game, Hitchin were in bottom spot on goal difference, with the Waders one place above. So given the added spice of being a local derby, this match was of monumental importance, the points being virtually priceless.

Biggleswade had appointed a new manager, former Canary – both player and manager, Robbie O’Keefe- and his task is clearly to revitalise the Waders who have unwillingly descended into the relegation zone.

Hitchin, still a bit grumpy after the game at Stratford Town was called off last Saturday after our coach had arrived, put out probably their strongest team, notwithstanding the fact that midfield maestro Stephen Gleeson was on the substitutes’ bench. Of interest too, was the inclusion on the bench of Michael Conlon, a signing from Kettering Town, who made a debut late on, albeit too late to impose his presence. His signing adds a much needed striker to the Hitchin squad.

There was a vibrant atmosphere, with expectation and hope emanating from all spectators in what was a mild and sunny afternoon. We could not have had a more eventful start to the game and both teams could have scored in the first ninety seconds, with a shot from Josh Coldicott-Stevens defended and Charlie Horlock parried a blistering shot from George Devine.

In the club bulletin, Hitchin manager Mark Burke appealed for patience as he saw sense in adhering to his game plan. Nevertheless the Hitchin players were eager to get the ball forward and played a relatively high line. The main difference in the half was the Waders persistence in possession football and Hitchin essayed the direct approach which is just as well as it was from such a piece of direct play that brought the only goals of this nervous but fairly contested encounter.

Steve Cawley, no stranger to ‘pressure’ games, saw quite a bit of the ball and contributed to the needed effort to get beyond the Waders’ defence. But Biggleswade had their indomitable moments, and Blake D’Arcy forced a corner with some artistry, with the outstanding Ciaren Jones defending, reminding us all of his vitals presence. Alex Brown, Steve Cawley and JCS combined in a promising move before Devine had another shot that was just a little wide.

With the midfield a battle ground, Hitchin utilised the long ball when they thought it presented a chance and this was the case after twenty-one minutes when a long punt upfield was held by Cawley who expertly lobbed Josh Hill to score one of the most important goals of the season for Hitchin.

This strike was fulsomely celebrated by players and of course by the spectators behind the goal in the new stands. It was tinged with a bit of relief and I expect my inward thought was the same as many others, silently exhorting the team to concentrate and keep focused. It would appear that the penchant for squandering a hard won lead has now been fully taken on board and not before time.

It might not have been such a pressing need had the shot from Ciaren Jones gone into the net instead of striking the side netting. I was not alone, at the other end, in thinking that it had been successful. If that was disappointing it was nothing to the ‘goal’ that was disallowed. Hitchin seized upon a defensive error with a poacher’s soul, whacked it into the net, not seeing assistant referee Darren Knox raise his flag to indicate that the ball had exited the field of play before the final cross. I, at my distance, had assumed that there had been an illegal challenge on the goalkeeper. This sort of decision making, whilst legitimate and correct, as it should be, does little for the frayed nerves of home supporters begging for a second goal that would bring greater comfort.

Then the Hitchin ‘patent’ corner was tried, but met with no success and was not tried again. Biggleswade looked dangerous along both flanks, and I was particularly impressed with right back Joe Howe, who was a former colleague of scorer Steve Cawley at Hemel Hempstead Town. He is more of an attacking wing back and almost got himself on the scoresheet late in the game. He was not the only one, and I emphasise that this vital Hitchin victory was one that took every ounce of effort and was hard won in all respects.

We had a busy time in the board room at half-time, with a full complement of visitors and officials, and the consensus was that it had been a generally good half, with one or two comments, sotto voce, that our Mr Cawley was perhaps an inch offside when he received his telling pass. Disagreement was polite, of course.

To a man, and woman, we fully expected as more direct approach in the second period from Biggleswade – as it really was Hobson’s Choice. The one advantage to be gained, from a Hitchin point of view, was that they might leave an occasional gap at the back for the likes of Cawley and Hutchinson to exploit. This did prove to be the case, minus the full exploitation.

I emerged for the second half and routinely ‘touched elbows’ with acquaintances as they made their way to the open terracing behind the goal.

I then had a COVID moment where I touched elbows with two young ladies. All very well except they were not extending their elbows in greeting but carrying beverages and their elbows were thus extended; I had made the wrong assumption. They gave me a quizzical look and I apologised for my mistake, which they brushed off in a good humoured way. When they found out I was the reporter they asked for a mention, and I have honoured that. So, watch your elbows, lads.

There was the very important forty-five minutes to go, plus stoppage time and we faced this with a degree of apprehension, with all the usual comments about the fragility of a single goal lead. This could have been doubled early in when Rio Dasilva, who had hitherto had a solid game, provided, after persistence, a perfect cross for Jacob Hutchinson who had a free shot, and looked certain to score but, whether it was nerves or not, he ballooned it. That would probably have been a knockout blow for battling Biggleswade who went on to have the better of the exchanges in a volatile second half.

The forward forays of the Waders were met with effective defending that had an aura of nervousness about it. No doubt Mark Burke’s half-time peroration had underlined the importance of not surrendering the lead, which may explain the defensive kicks that probably landed in the Shell Garage and surprised not a few. Hutchinson and Cawley interchanged passes but Cawley’s effort lacked the accuracy of his priceless goal.

Howe had a good run and a fine shot at the end of it and that too cleared the cross bar. Hutchinson emulated this with a purposeful run of his own, culminating in a foul, and JCS sent the free kick towards skipper Dan Webb who could not reach it for one of his trademark headers. That would have been nice. Further good work from Dasilva saw Jack Green have a blocked shot, and a cross from Devine vainly searched for someone in a black and orange shirt.

Biggleswade had already replaced Jack Vasey with Finlay Johnson, owing to injury. They then put on Max Bustamante for Blake D’Arcy and Harvey Browne was replaced by Francis Mampolo. Hitchin elected to replace the influential JCS, who had been outstanding, with Stephen Gleeson. Later on Steve Cawley, the sponsors’ man of the match was replaced by Michael Conlon, the ex Kettering man who thus made a debut. He had been in the party on the coach for the postponed Stratford Town game. The other substitution was Ben Stevens for Dasilva.

All these substitutions and stoppages add on time, which is very welcome when you are trailing, but seems to last for ever when you are defending a narrow lead. The plain fact was that the Waders went for it purposefully and had at least three good chances – one was when Finlay Johnson made the most of a defensive error and was only just thwarted. Devine tried his luck again and it was held by Horlock. Hitchin, forced to defend, were limited in their goal attempts, the most hopeful being Ciaren Jones’ long distance lob hoping to catch out Josh Hill.

There was the usual drama of free-kicks and corners for the opposition, a long throw that tried to cause mayhem, but all credit goes to Biggleswade for their sterling attempts to rescue a point. Being a Bedfordshire man myself, I hope that Biggleswade avoid the drop, but of course I wanted Hitchin to bag all three points today, as there is no room for sentiment in the basement.

Hitchin did themselves an enormous favour and are elevated to third from bottom, which constitutes a move upwards of two whole places, ( and I know I have said this twice), whilst Biggleswade have just as much as Hitchin to do to steer themselves to safety. To illustrate the late tension of this game I mention a late save and ball smothering by Charlie Horlock and noticed that he received congratulations in the same manner as he would had he saved a crucial penalty in one of those dreaded shoot-outs.

I was not the first to mention that our opponents on Monday, Tamworth, did much for their resuscitation by scoring six goals without reply at home to Barwell. When we heard that score we looked back as if the speaker had said something vaguely indecent. It was a timely reminder of the fact that there is much work to do. It was hard work today and the reward was in proportion to the effort. It had been a fair encounter with just one caution for either side; good football was played and it was just great to be amongst the highest home attendance of the season. And boy, was it good to see a win.

Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Alex Brown, Josh Coldicott-Stevens, (Stephen Gleeson), Dan Webb, captain, Ciaren Jones, cautioned, Stan Georgiou, Lewis Barker, Jacob Hutchinson, Stephen Cawley, GOAL, 21 MINUTES,Sponsors’ Man of the Match, (Michael Conlon), Rio Dasilva, (Ben Stevens). Substitutes not used – Malaki Black, Kye Tearle.

Josh Hill, Joe Howe, captain, this reporter’s man of the match, Kane Farrell, Luke Middleton, cautioned, Clinton Nosakhare, Charley O’Keefe, Blake D’Arcy,(Max Bustamante), Harvey Browne, (Francis Mampolo), George Devine, Jack Vasey, (Finlay Johnson), Enoch Andoh. Substitutes not used- William Owens and Axel Ampedu.

Referee- Mr M Stevens, assisted by Mr T Cartwright and Mr D Knox.

Attendance 796



Competition Season
Southern League 2021-22