The Canaries may have laid one ghost on Tuesday night, earning praise for their performance but today another spectre arose and overlooked a severe thumping by Alvechurch at a sunny Lye Meadow. It brought to mind that irreverent song whose lyric states ‘everything that could go, did go wrong’ and also the cliché that we were rather lucky to get the nought.
Jay Bird, who received an injury at Needham Market was unavailable and his loan period might expire before he regains fitness. This meant a start for Leon Okuboyejo. The Churches rivals Stourbridge had, apparently signed a tenth player and we wondered if our opposition would be strong. That was painfully answered in the following couple of hours that was more frustrating than the closure of the A14 after Tuesday’s match.
The hosts began purposefully with a shot, wide, from a player who glories in the name of Kevin Da Veiga Monteiro. This player showed his willingness because in a following Hitchin move, he was the one who affected the clearance from the cross. Draper tried to latch onto a cross from Ahmed but the youthful home keeper, Josh Bradley-Hurst, making his debut, I believe, was there first. This young man had relatively little to do, but what saves he had to make, he accomplished well.
Before five minutes had been played, Alvechurch took the lead, following a free-kick from Ryan Nesbitt and right back Kyle Morrison completed the manoeuvre. The Hitchin defence seemed static and as nonplussed as their supporters. This early lead did not satisfy the hosts who looked particularly dangerous along the left flank John Atherton in particular showed just how to run with the ball at a timid defence and, in the words of our secretary, ‘he had a field day’ – as well as scoring the second goal.
Before then there was a wild, optimistic shot from Charlie Hayford, following a Mollison stop. Javia Roberts won a free-kick, centrally, outside the area – squeaky bum area. This ricocheted off a startled defence and the following effort was nulled by Mollison. There was a move involving Donnellan, Hayford and Anderson – but this cleared the cross bar with unwanted exuberance. A better effort was from Okuboyejo, which was held by Bradley- Hurst.
There were corners for both sides and the best chance came when Hayford was able to slip the ball to Draper who fumbled his intended shot.
Alvechurch worked cohesively as a team (as Hitchin were disjointed) but there was room for individual displays of skill and one of these came from the pace of Atherton who took on all and sundry before finishing masterfully to double the home advantage. Our fixtures secretary defied logic and said it was because our team were wearing white shirts. He did make a pertinent comment insofar as our first two opponents had permitted us to play but the Church had other ideas – and they worked well.
We had been here before at Lye Meadow – and in conceding a two goal lead we had pulled one back to give hope that was eradicated by a late third home goal. It was not so tight today – but the rampant lads in amber were not content with that two goal cushion and an immediate attack following their second goal saw Joshua Ezewele run and shot with Monteiro waiting to follow-up – but it was defended, albeit a little awkwardly.
After this there came a psychological moment; but it was not intended as such. Hitchin almost declared a panic mode by making two rapid substitutions. It was not as rash as it seemed. Anderson had had a torrid time, being ‘skinned’ along the flank and he had been cautioned. He was replaced by Maximillian Ryan and playmaker Hayford was replaced by dowie, just back from suspension. Having said that, our Jay will have to face another suspension soon – as his later handball meant an instant dismissal as well as the concession of a penalty. He could hardly be said to have taken one for the team as the game was well lost by then.
The psychological moment may be that this double substitution was an admission that the game plan had gone wrong – but at least it had been acknowledged as such. Hitchin Town had a chance when they won a free-kick, centrally just outside the area but Donnellan put this chance wastefully over the cross bar. The rumblings of discontent among the travelling faithful were voiced in language both painful and free.
The home team were lording it with their spreading play and their ability to fine players in space and whilst it was not entirely one-way traffic -it seemed so. There was no doubt here – the hosts were comfortably in control and took the two goal lead to the interval. If the task of recovery was not insurmountable it was highly unlikely – given the notable difference between the performance in Suffolk compared to this one in this part of Worcestershire.
Hitchin started quite well with Norville-Williams providing Bickerstaff with a chance, but the effort was saved. What was remarkable about this is that the ball was sent immediately up the other end Ryan Nesbitt in unchallenged possession made it look easy in scoring his side’s third goal, just three minutes into this half. Worse was to come, I’m afraid.
Donnellan, who had a decent shot saved in the first half had another go, with the same conclusion. Kyle Morrison had a run in possession and his shot was turned away for a corner. A grave defensive error from the beleaguered Mollison literally handed the fourth goal in the sixty-first minute – and it saw Nesbitt bag his second of the game. I tried a bit of grim humour to an away supporter standing next to me by suggesting that this game might be beyond our reach. His reply was suitably sour. From a free-kick, dowie shot wide – but it was a fair effort. Dowie was the culprit in handling the goal- bound ball in the seventy-fourth minute and he was dismissed and Nesbitt sent Mollison the wrong way to make it five. Any Hitchin attack seemed to end with the tall centre-half, Jamie Willets heading the ball out of harm’s way and usually starting a counter move.
As the game went painfully to a close – the hosts could have had more – and if Hitchin won a free-kick or a corner it was almost greeted as if a compensatory goal had been scored. By this time we just wanted the game to end so our goal difference in the league table would not look so poor – but it really was a forgettable performances and one that needs some scrutiny for immediate improvement. Let us hope it starts with the home game next week against Rushall Olympic.
Josh Bradley-Hurst, Kyle Morrison, GOAL, 5 MINUTES, Kyle Rowley, Stuart McNaught, Jamie Willets, captain, Kevin Da Veiga Monteiro, Joshua Ezewele, Ben Usher-Shipway, Ryan Nesbitt ,HAT-TRICK, 48, 62, 71 (PENALTY), cautioned, Javia Roberts, John Atherton, GOAL, 23 MINUTES, this reporter’s man of the match.
Substitutes used – Jordan Goddard for McNaught, Peter Till for Usher –Shipway, Miracle Okator for Nesbitt.
Substitutes not used: Lloyd Ransome GK and Jordan Smith-Williams.
Josh Mollison, Alex Anderson, cautioned, Jordan Norville-Williams, Charlie Hayford, Dan Webb, captain, Joe Gauge, Mo Ahmed, Harry Draper, cautioned, Leon Okuboyejo, Leo Donnellan, Josh Bickerstaff.
Substitutions – Maximillian Ryan for Anderson, 28 minutes and Jay Dowie for Hayford, 28 minutes. Dowie dismissed, straight red card.
Substitutes not used: Lewis Ferrell, Lewis Barker and Devonte Simms.
REFEREE: Mr Stuart Kane, assisted by Mr Ben Watkiss and Mr Alex Harris.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN