Everyone enjoys a goal fest unless your team is on the wrong end of things and the Canaries had their feathers somewhat ruffled tonight. This match turned out to be an unmitigated disaster reminiscent of the debacle a couple of seasons ago at Needham Market who, on that occasion scored one more than the Diamonds did tonight, with Christopher Wreh scoring four goals and a hat-trick in about twenty minutes.
The visitors did play some pretty football, but the hosts proved that simplicity may well be the more effective option – and in doing so they revealed a singular inability to deal with the tried and tested route one option.
It began well enough, with some lively forward play, and an initial attack brought a corner and Ryan Smith’s attempted shot was spoilt by a stumble. Following a free-kick, cleared by Zack Reynolds, who started a forward run that was intercepted, and Dhillon , in possession, claimed he was pushed in the area, with the referee waving away the appeal. Better was Luke Brown’s effort – with his forward headed pass aiming fro Callum Stead, but Richard Walton was quick off his line. Then there was a cross from Lawrie Marsh towards Stead – again the keeper intervened and sent a long pass forward to Wreh, who shot on the turn and it was one up for the hosts, with ten minutes played and Hitchin looking good hitherto.
If that was naïve defending it was exposed again two painful minutes later – and Wreh again latched onto the Route One – running in from the left more or less unchallenged to double the lead. An understatement from a Hitchin supporter hit home. ‘I have seen better starts, chaps’. Indeed. What was curious was the stylish manner of Hitchin’s play in the possible belief that Total Football would sort it all out erelong. I should cocoa.
Diamonds kept it devastatingly simple, defending attempts at a Hitchin recovery. The third goal came after a Hitchin corner was beaten away and once more the long clearance to the well-placed Wreh saw him complete his hat-trick. It made me speculate that his father might well have enjoyed such scoring feats whilst at Arsenal. Like in that irreverent song, everything that could go did go wrong and after twenty minutes Wreh had the temerity to capitalise on another Route One and make it Wreh four, Hitchin nil. Salt was then rubbed into Canary wounds when Dhillon took a tumble in the box after a challenge and as the shrill whistle went we though – oh well, at least we have a penalty. Not a bit of it – instead a protesting Dhillon was booked for simulation. What would come next we wondered, a Hitchin own goal? Horlock, playing his last game before his suspension takes effect almost handed a golden chance to Wren with a fumble, but he was able to boot the ball into touch.
Bell-Toxtle was in place to have a go and after he lofted the ball way over the bar, there was a perceived view that they could afford such a miss. Kye Tearle, deputising for the injured Jack Green, was playing in earnest. He was involved with a couple of good moves, one of which finally brought Hitchin a goal you may say their play deserved. There were some frantic moments a in the Diamonds’ penalty area, and a low shot from Alex Marsh was parried away before Dhillon tried a header and Stead’s follow-up was saved but it was Alex Marsh who ensured that there would be at least one goal in response. This came about ten minutes before half-time.
It may seem somewhat optimistic but even at 4-1 we felt that Hitchin could claw their way back in the second half since they had played well – if one can say that about a team that has shipped four elementary goals.
After the whistle, the one way system gave us all some exercise in circumnavigating the stadium, during which I received a phone call from my elder brother who take an interest in our games. I spoke in lamentable tones of the score so far and he decided to attempt to cheer me up. He had read a programme article I had written that had referred to my exploits on a tandem and said he had composed a few lines for my edification.
This, from a man who holds a degree in philosophy and spends some of his leisure time in writing filthy limericks. I will quote it as my half-time piece to deflect the still startled state in which I found myself.
‘An athletic couple from Hampden,
Once tried to make love on a tandem,
The result was a failure, as they broke the derailleur,
Alas, quod erat demonstrandum.’
He clearly was not feeling our pain. What an odd situation – to concede four goals of simple but effective construction. We had to keep our spirits up. Perhaps our manager would put fire in the bellies of his players and they would reduce the arrears with the urgency that was demanded, given our perilous position. I have seen it happen, but it did not tonight. In face it just became worse.
There was the urgency there but it was accompanied by errors of short passing and the needless loss of possession in many moves. One smart piece of action culminated in Stead shooting so wide he could not hold his head and wonder at the miss. Brown and Dhillon also had a good interchange but the cross was too strong. Then Dhillon had a shot blocked and Brown’s reasonable effort was saved, but gained a corner.
Marcus Gouldbourne replaced scorer Alex Marsh but he found he could not replicate the torment he caused the Stourbridge defence on Saturday. Coldicott-Stevens’ shot also brought a corner and Gouldbourne’s cunning in-swinger almost brought a goal but the keeper saved it right on the goal-line.
Needless to say there were further creditable efforts from Rushden, with Collard’s decent shot saved by Horlock and they too had their share of corners. The fifth goal came from one of these and it was Collard who headed it home to make it five-one. That put paid to an effective revival from the beleaguered Canaries. We had played sixty-seven minutes. Diamonds’ substitute Lorrell Smith made it 6-1 after another relatively crisp and simple move, after seventy-five minutes and we saw the spectre of that Needham Market result having a good chance of coming to taunt us again.
Tom Lorraine came close to making it seven, and with Goldbourne firing straight at the keeper we began to despair of further consolation and right in the last minute, another Rushden substitute, Jesse Akubine scored the final goal to complete the rout. It was Diamonds’ first win of the season, and must be good consolation for their surprising home defeat, 5-0 against Newark in the FA Cup.
Hitchin thus have a few days and a vital training session to prepare for their FA Cup tie at St Albans City, and they do need to recover adequately from the horror at Hayden Road tonight. So do we.
RUSHDEN AND DIAMONDS
Richard Walton, Zack Reynolds, Fernando Bell-Toxtle, Jack Ashton, Liam Dolman, captain, Alex Collard, GOAL, 67 MINUTES, Joel Gyasi, (Jesse Akubine, 68, GOAL 90 MINUTES), Matthew Slinn, (Ben Ford, 71), Tom Lorraine, Christopher Wreh, FOUR GOALS, 10, 12, 17 AND 20 MINUTES, MAN OF THE MATCH, (Lorrell Smith, GOAL,75 MINUTES, ), Luke Fairlands.
Unused Substitutes: Patrick Casey and William Jones.
Charlie Horlock, Kye Tearle, Layne Eadie, Ryan Smith, Lawrie Marsh, Ben Walster, captain, Alex Marsh, GOAL, 35 MINUTES, (Marcus Gouldbourne, 57 minutes,) Jhai Dhillon, cautioned, Callum Stead, Luke Brown, Josh Coldicott-Stevens.
Unused substitutes: Rio Dasilva, Tiernan Parker, GK, Max Ryan, Patrick Gourgel-Sequira.
OFFICIALS: Mr E Kaye, assisted by Mr D Jarrett and Mr R Fullicks.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN