To commemorate Hitchin’s first ever visit to Coalville Town, the Leicestershire hosts presented a memento to their visitors and it was much appreciated – even if the result of this maiden trip was not. The club is much cherished by its local community and the town is steeped in industrial history as its name suggests. Two disused coal mines are in the immediate vicinity and the pitch is largely surrounded by setback ‘spoil’ now grassed over but dominating. Close to the club is a former miners’ welfare building and the stadium has a neat feel with new structures that include the clubhouse and boardroom area. Home officials were informative and very proud of their club and community.
Team news was limited, with the inclusion of new signing Lukas Didik, who made his debut as a late substitute. It was good to get back to action after the recent postponements but Hitchin, although they held their own, were soon up against a home side that had a degree of flair for the penetrative attack and counter play.
An early cross was defended by Dan Webb, and Lewis Ferrell emulated his skipper with some pivotal defending in this opening spell. The hosts had a pair of live wires in Luke Shaw and Joe Doyle-Charles – as well as a penetrative pair in Tom McGlinchy and Kairo Mithell. The pitch was heavy and a strong breeze hampered passing to a noticeable extent. Michael Cain managed a kind of hooked shot on the turn, which proved no problem for keeper Richard Walton.
A cross from Alex Dean was cleared only for Shaw to put in another for McGlinchy – it was a good move culminating in Michael Johnson diving low to end the danger. Kairo Mitchell had the best chance so far for the hosts. The very animated home bench were not doing much for their blood pressure with pantomimic appeals for even the most obvious of decisions, and I suspect we may file this under ‘passion’. Our own chaps were loudly letting rip of tactical instructions, so we had this as an extra to the main event, so to speak.
Webb espied Galliford encroaching in to the opposing penalty area and he fired one off which went wide of the far post. Dowie crossed to Webb who headed over the bar – it was a good move. Cain put in a cross aimed for Alfie Cue that was too strong, like others that followed. Mithell’s shot was blocked by Ferrell, which was just as well, but the hosts were pressing. Ferrell cleared another encroachment and we needed Hitchin to push forward for another goal chance. Galliford’s forward ball to Cue was cut out neatly by Walton and better preparatory play was desirable.
Cue’s long throw to Galliford was just missed by the latter and then Ferrell fired straight at Walton. A dangerous cross from Shaw was uncomfortably defended but resulted in a goal kick for the visitors. Max Ryan’s neat defence did not prevent another attack from the Ravens who looked very much as if they had a goal in them. Ironically this occurred, in the twenty-sixth minute and was an own goal from Max Ryan, following another fine attack.
Play had been, in essence, more or less even and it seemed that Hitchin would, at the very least, keep the score at one-nil to the interval, but they were hit again in the very last minute of the half. They had contained Coalville well but fell to a set piece, namely a free kick from the right.
Hitchin had created few real chances and free-kicks were not of the best, and to concede a second goal of what is known as the stroke of half-time was a bitter blow. But making the most of a free-kick can always be a game changer and so it proved to be. Dowie had shot wide, without much power and then the hosts struck.
There had been a bit of shirt pulling and a free-kick was given, just outside the penalty area to the right. Andrew Wright sent this in and it was a beauty, being headed into the net by Scott McManaus .Shortly after this the whistle went for the interval and I gratefully received the solace afforded by hot mushroom soup. Coalville had been lively but not overwhelming, being fairly matched by their opponents who had only limited chances hitherto.
It is quite ironic that Hitchin did raise their game to some extent and yet fell further behind – conceding two goals in as many minutes midway through the half. Both teams employed maximum substitutions during this latter period. Harry Draper had been contained in his efforts, and one promising effort saw him drift off-side. Four industrial challenged resulted in one booking for the hosts, Mitchell and three for Hitchin – Bickerstaff, Cain and Ferrell. All three had, apart from that, fair games overall.
Cue had a shot, wide of the mark and the home bench continued to dispute all and everything, which began to border on the comical. The hosts continued to be the more penetrative side and they put the game beyond Hitchin’s reach within the last quarter of an hour. Scott Belgrove had replaced Alfie Cue, Green replaced Ryan and Didik made a late debut for the last throws of the dice.
Coalville employed Kyle Perry, who was to score the fourth goal and both Burrows and Omotola entered the fray erelong. Tom McGlinchy, who had been lively in attacking play, scored the third goal after seventy –eight minutes. He was in the right space within the penalty area and fired home from relatively close range. Ferrell had a decent shot that was put out for a corner before all this, but Hitchin’s best bit of play came after they trailed by four goals to nil.
Chesmain and Cain had made efforts to get the ball into the box and there had been a blocked shot or two, but a goal looked a long way away, as Webb’s weakish header indicated. The fourth goal was scored by substitute Kyle Perry who, despite his portly physique threw himself to the ground after his strike and seemed a little put out that everyone seemed to be content to leave him there basking in the glory for what was an easy-peasy chance that I think I might just have scored, even with Alfie Cue’s spare boots that he had discarded during the first half for his psychedelic ones.
A few minutes later there was some compensation for Hitchin when Isaac Galliford scored what just might have been the goal of the game. This signalled a decent bit of pressure and Hitchin went at it gamely to try to reduce the goal difference but they could not penetrate further. So, the team in ninth position defeated the team in eighteenth and I suppose it was the form result. Didik’s debut was too short for full analysis but he did get in some good touches – but for me the outstanding man today was Lewis Ferrell.
Even so, the Hitchin performance overall was just a little anaemic and next Saturday they return to Leicestershire to take on Barwell, where an improvement is much desired if we are to keep our heads above relegation water. It was my first visit to Coalville, and apart from the result it was a happy one, as they are a forward-looking and hospitable club and the team played some impressive attacking football.
Richard Walton, Alex Dean, Scott McManaus, GOAL, 45 MINUTES, Steve Towers, captain, (Tolani Omoloto, 71), Kieren Fenton, Joe Doyle-Charles, Luke Shaw, Andrew Wright, (Curtis Burrows, 80), Kairo Mithell, cautioned, (Kyle Perry, GOAL, 80 MINUTES), Tim Berridge, Tom McGlinchy, GOAL, 78 MINUTES). Substitutes not used – Dean Freeman and Leandro Browne.
Michael Johnson, Max Ryan, OWN GOAL, 26 MINUTES, (Jack Green, 83), Noah Chesmain, Jay Dowie, (Lukas Didik, 86), Dan Webb, captain, Lewis Ferrell, cautioned, this reporter’s Hitchin man of the match, Josh Bickerstaff, cautioned, Harry Draper, Michael Cain, cautioned, Isaac Galliford, GOAL, 83 MINUTES, Alfie Cue, (Scott Belgrove, 63 minutes). Substitutes not used – Edwin Mensah and Toby Byron.
REFEREE: Mr Andrew Ellis, who had a sound game in my view, assisted by Mr Darren Laska and Rohan Anand.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN