A Boxing Day Derby and an early kick off as well. It had been a long time since the last match, with the inevitable postponements meaning many more evening games. After the mild and sunny Christmas Day, the weather today was like the result for Hitchin – quite dismal and especially disappointing as both goals emanated from defensive errors.
The last competitive game for Hitchin was as long ago as 7th December, a 1-4 away defeat at Hednesford, and following the loss against Lowestoft this game today marked a third successive League defeat, which is a worrying sequence. So, it was off in the rain to what my father always called Big Les Wade, and indeed the Waders had an appropriate nickname. Well done to all those who braved the cold and wet – a bumper attendance of almost 400 – and it is a pity that the game could not have been a more entertaining spectacle.
Team news for Hitchin was that Jack Green started his suspension and there were starts for Jacob Hutchinson and Jamie Jellis. The Waders included two former Canaries in the shape of Lewis Ferrell and Treymayne Charles, both of whom had good games.
The heavy pitch and the insistent rain made it difficult for both teams to be other than workmanlike and prosaic. A mildly critical observation here is that it being Boxing Day, there were far too many contentious incidents that might have led to a bit of boxing, but a first rate referee was not influenced by the mass appeals after almost every free-kick awarded for fouls that were not that much out of the ordinary. As it stood, he issued just two cautions when there could have been more.
The game began with suggestions that we might be slip sliding away for the full ninety and the first meaningful action came when a fine pass found Dylan Williams whose cross was defended at the expense of a corner, which was safely dealt with by Charlie Horlock.
An early free-kick for Hitchin saw Jhai Dhillon pick out skipper Dan Webb, who was prevented from making clean contact. Then there was one from the Waders, courtesy of Matthew Ball, and a fair home header was saved. Dhillon, probably Hitchin’s best player in the game, set up a curiously subdued Alex Marsh whose shot cleared the bar with an unwanted exuberance.
As the rain drummed on the roof of the stand at sodden Langford Road, we saw the temperature rise a bit after an inconclusive quarter of an hour as players over reacted en masse, demanding that the referee clap a few in irons. Some said that this was typical of a derby but I am not so sure. I feel it was manly due to the deplorable conditions, and these difficulties prevented slick, creative play.
Bell’s crafty attempt to gain a penalty was loftily dismissed – and I did hear one Hitchin supporter saying that the referee probably wanted to spare the audience the embarrassment of another miss from the spot. Perhaps it is the season of goodwill. Walster was willing if prone to error, and he enabled Jellis to have a pop on goal but this was easily blocked and Marsh’s ambitious pass to the advancing Bell was too strong. Corners for both sides were generally good and provided the best chances for a goal but the half, for the most part was uninspired stuff.
No side dominated, the initiative was shared or was blundered upon, so to speak. Goalkeepers kept their gloves clean through lack of direct shots. After yet another bit of petulant handbags Corey Panter was cautioned and made all the usual indifferent gestures as the referee went through the traditional punctilio. At half time we discussed matters and felt that even if it would pan out to a dull no score draw, a point was a point and another evening match had been avoided. Neither team looked like being worthy winners.
We also felt that substitutions would be inevitable but none was made by either side at the resumption. In the opening minutes Hitchin won four corners in as many minutes but saw them defended and Biggleswade themselves won one for themselves, after a sloppy back pass allowed in the predatory Charles. The Waders scored from this corner – a first shot on goal was parried but Drew Richardson drew first blood with the follow-up. We had played fifty-two minutes. The goal had come from a bit of erroneous play and had been exploited and that was that. It might have easily happened at the other end.
I say this because Jacob Hutchinson had seized on a misplaced pass and he really ought to have done better than produce a mild shot that was easily stopped by Kyle Forster, but Dhillon did force yet another corner. Hitchin did try to forced the pace but the Waders were able to defend without too much discomfort.
Jellis showed a bit of skill, cutting into the box but Bell’s effort was ballooned. Matthew Ball sent his effort over the bar, matching the height quite well, if unintentionally. Williams and Charles had tantalising moments in their play for Biggleswade. Walster and Rolfe had lantern-jawed moments in defence and Bickerstaff, in moments of mopping up tried to get the ball forward to any player in all yellow. Devante Stanley had an excursion or two along the flank to lend his assistance to a possible attack and Dhillon’s own efforts were unstinting.
But there was no clear way through for Hitchin; moves broke down and passes went astray. Forster in goal was never put under serious threat. But let me be plain here – the hosts were no great shakes either and it could be argued that their lead was a little fortuitous, owing as it did to an error.
The general gloom was lifted for the neutral or the home supporter with a nice attempt at an overhead by Shane Bush, which Horlock held easily and at the other end Webb headed in well from a corner but Forster made his save look routine.
Substitutions were made and, for Hitchin, on came the handful of a name of Diego Freitas Gouveia, whose handle sounds like a posh firm of Portuguese solicitors. He replaced Bell and Hutchinson was replaced by Stephen Cawley, whose loan period has been extended – and I like to think it is so he can prove what a decent striker he could be. He was not able to impose his presence with any authority in the time remaining, alas. Gouveia was as artful as he could be on the flank but more than once he ran out of pitch but not the fancy footwork.
Jellis managed another shot, well saved but it did seem increasingly unlikely that Hitchin would be able to equalise. I did not rule out a sloppy mud-clinging short back pass, a free-kick that Walster would send in and the goalie out of the back of the net still clutching the ball – or even an own goal – I have no pride I would take any of that – anything to stop the gloom of a third successive defeat.
Instead of that. Hitchin conceded a penalty and the woebegone Walster was the man responsible and he had already had the admonitory finger pointed at him for the first goal. Dylan Williams took a perfect penalty and now with eighty-four minutes gone we knew it was beyond redemption – but at least we could all go home early.
What we had left was a hopeful lob from Walster late on and an even later shot from Jellis and that cleared the bar with dastardly enthusiasm. As it happens the referee’s final whistle was merciful and we can only hope that Hitchin can stop the rot in the next game. In this one they had managed better possession but did not create enough in front of goal and had paid the full price for erroneous moments.
The hosts had stuck at their task of preserving the lead and I still had the feeling as I drove away into the late afternoon that this should have been a goal-less draw – and but for those errors it would have been and I do not think that anyone would have said it should not have been. Oh Well.
Kyle Forster, Devante Stanley, Corey Panter, cautioned, James Peters, cautioned, Lewis Ferrell, Drew Richardson, GOAL 52 MINUTES, Dylan Williams, PENALTY GOAL, 84 MINUTES, (Jamie Carey-Morrell), Charlie Pattison, Shane Bush, Matthew Ball, captain, Treymayne Charles.
Substitutes not used -Mason Wilson-Rhiney, Jake Kerins and Darryl Reid, GK.
Charles Horlock, Ben Walster, Jhai Dhillon, this reporter’s Hitchin star man, Lewis Rolfe, Daniel Webb, captain, Josh Bickerstaff, Lewis Barker, Jamie Jellis, Jacob Hutchinson, (Stephen Cawley, 65,), Alex Marsh, Bradley Bell, (Diego Freitas Gouveia, 72).
Substitutes not used – Joshua Coldicott-Stevens, Max Ryan and Kai Phelan.
REFEREE: Mr Alistair Wilson, who had a fine game, ably assisted by Mr Mr Lukas Wood and Mr Alex Baker.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN