Hitchin Town 3 Stratford Town 4


Southern League 2023-24

Top Field68 Fishponds Rd, Hitchin SG5 1NU, UK

Hitchin Town
Stratford Town
3 - 4
Final Score


First of all, we must pay homage to our elite ground staff who, in face of predictions that today’s game would be postponed, set about their task and indeed drained over two thousand gallons of water from the pitch, with the pumps in continuous use, and thus the game was on, and it was skipper Charlie Horlock’s two hundred and fiftieth appearance for Hitchin.

Our visitors today were an in-form team, securing a play-off spot for the moment and winning games in front of improved attendances. We were all aware of Hitchin’s woeful form, despite their best efforts, and today, we felt was the day to reverse our run of adverse results.

Rain was predicted but at kickoff had held off so far. We had a female referee today, which made for a pleasant change. The lights were on in what was a gloomy scene in terms of weather, and we hoped for some positive, attacking football. An early move from the visitors was dealt with, but early exchanges had a pedestrian nature about them.

Syme got a move going and Bell obliged with the shot, albeit off target. Eadie’s urgent cross favoured Smith in the opposition goal. Then there was a super pass from Galliford to Eadie who finished well and Hitchin this took a welcome lead scored by Eadie after twelve minutes. It was a simple and accurate finish. The next Hitchin attack was broken down, but it had the ingredients we look for, and an addition to the lead was indeed feasible.

Stratford had a corner and Liam Daly, tallest player on the pitch headed boxer the bar. Another corner was forced by the visitors, knowingly testing Hitchin on set pieces. This was defended but the Bards were pressing. Bell’s cross into a crowd of players was always going to difficult and again it was the right idea.

Hawker languidly put the ball into the Hitchin net, knowing he was offside. A Hitchin attack brought hopeful appeal of a hand ball, but a corner was the judgement. This brought a blocked shot from Cotter and then a counter move which utilised the long throw and culminated in a free kick for the hosts.

Galliford took a knock off the ball and so, cue the drinks’ break we resumed with a poor pass from Tearle that provided a chance for Hawker, who tested Horlock and won a corner. From a whipped in cross, Williams volleyed only just wide for the Bards.

Bell’s well-intentioned cross provided Williams with another chance, but he was foiled by Kpapke who stood strong. Good work from Storer led to a realistic chance for Stratford who again came very close to an equaliser. Hitchin had indeed gone off the boil. Idiakhoa was hauled back by his shirt and the offender, Solanke, was cautioned. Ebanks followed for dissent. The free kick saw the shot adequately defended.

We were approaching half time and there was a corner for the visitors that saw the tall Daly provide the chance which was again wasted. Idiakhoa raised the temperature when his shot hit the foot of the post and I for one saw a second goal as a necessity rather than a luxury. This miss later proved vital.

In stoppage time it was important to keep the shape, and Storer showed his frustration by stroking the ball into the net in protest at an adverse decision for his team. Hitchin took this lead to the interval but the game had not really provided much of a spectacle so far.

The second period was marked by a couple of ferocious attacks from Stratford where it seemed they could queue up to score but had the good grace not to. Gleeson put in a free kick, which was low, but Galliford followed up inaccurately.

Toby Syme’s brave tackle thwarted the next effort from the Bards and Williams, with a free shot saw Horlock save well at the foot of the post. That really should have been the equaliser, given the opportunity. A long ball effort from Stratford was headed away by Syme but the inevitable equaliser soon came from substitute Daniel Lafferty after fifty- five minutes, and I must concede that they deserved it. Time and time again they had tested the sometimes-ponderous home defence, and then a quick cross to Callum Ebanks saw him stroke the ball unto an unguarded net two minutes after their equaliser. The telling cross was from the sprightly Williams.

We have no grounds for complaint since we had been lethargic since resumption and devoid of the necessary attacking spirit. It is an odd anomaly, but Hitchin have won three successive away trips to the Bards and yet always seem to struggle at home against them.

Surely, we were not facing yet another defeat and at home as well. From a free kick, Storer, unsportingly baited by Idiakhoa, hit the side netting. He went off soon afterwards, being substituted by Coyle. Ciaren Jones replaced Kpakpe.

Hitchin, prevented from going forward, but they did get a free kick in the left over generously hit into no man’s land. Popoola replaced Cotter. One of the Hitchin management bench received a caution, no doubt borne of frustration.

Then, hallelujah,a Hitchin equaliser was bagged and by substitute Josh

Popoola, who had scored that good goal against Watford Acdemy. But not even a minute later the Bards regained the lead with a snap attack that caught the inwardly celebrating home side stone cold. Ebanks was the marksman who went on to secure a hat trick. It was entertaining but somewhat gruelling so was the next goal for Stratford, borne of a long ball, left unchecked and the ball seemed to roll obediently into the net on silent command. This was only a minute or so after the last goal. Yes, it was Ebanks, completing a handsome hat trick.

It was bordering on the farcical, with Hitchin now 4-2 down and guilty of poor defending. Galliford’s attempt was good but blocked. If nothing else, we had a bit of work sunshine and a nice rainbow to look at, but no pot of gold or pot of goals for a now somewhat desperate Hitchin who have not had the taste of victory since October. Two successive corners followed for the relaxed Bards who shrugged off the lack of success. They had nothing left to prove as the board showed five minutes of added time.

This was used profitably with Popoola reducing the arrears to 4-3 in the fourth minute of this stoppage time, but the rest eroded and so the match ended on what was a gallant score, but it was still a defeat for all the effort.

One home supporter after the game asked me not to quote any Shakespeare this time. Well, I will restrict it to just the one reference- and it alludes to the end of the match.

‘For this relief, much thanks.’

Charlie Horlock, 250th appearance, Bradley Bell, Layne Eadie, Goal, 12 minutes 1-0, Toby Syme, Alex Kpapke, (Ciaren Jones), Kye Tearle, Kavan Cotter, (Joshua Popoola, Two goals- 74 and 94 minutes, 2-2, 3-4,), Stephen Gleeson, Dan Idiakhoa, Isaac Galliford, Jack Snelus. Substitutes not used – John Freeman, Stan Georgiou, Thomas Blennerhassett.

Callum Smith, Daniel Vann, Alex Worley, Liam Daly, (Thomas Hewlett), Paul McCone, Babatomiwa Solanke, cautioned, (Daniel Lafferty, Goal, 55, 1-1), Jack Storer, (Callum Coyle), Joshua Hawker, Callum Ebanks, Man of the Match, Hat-trick, 57, 2-1, 75, 2-3, 80, 3-4. Lewis Ludford-Ison, Charlie Williams. Substitutes not used- James Molyneux, Lewis Ludford-Ison, Charlie Williams.

Referee-Ms J Horwood, assisted by Mr T Frost and Mr B Jerrams.

Attendance 473



Competition Season
Southern League 2023-24