In a rare meeting between these two clubs, Hitchin eased to a comfortable win, with substitute Callum Stead scoring a hat-trick, after coming on and turning this game around in a sweltering Rothamsted Park. The Spartan League, Premier division club gave a good account of themselves, not conceding until the thirty-ninth minute and looked as if they had a goal in them.
Hitchin did not so much as display superiority as much as secure it by stealth. Changes were made to the Canaries starting eleven, with starts for Sam Kelly as right back and Stan Georgiou in defence/midfield, having been restricted to coming on as a late substitute in recent games.
An early foray saw Ryan Smith combine with Lawrie Marsh, whose shot cleared the cross bar. Marsh turned provider for Kye Tearle, whose cross-cum-shot was saved. This was followed by another shot -this time from Rio Dasilva – again over the bar.
The Harps reacted well to these early warnings and put together some neat passing play in forward moves, but the finish was somewhat lacking. But Horlock had to save a decent shot from their experienced right winger whose wily play could not be overlooked. Having survived early pressure the Harps applied some of their own, but the Hitchin defence had their measure – forcing one back pass that almost deceived the goal keeper. Tearle, in a forward run, forced a corner and this led to a shot from Max Ryan, which again cleared the cross bar. A luscious through ball saw Tearle evade the off-side and he ought to have scored with his free shot but fluffed his lines.
The hot day called for a water break, which so our chairman told me, should occur at twenty-two and a half minutes. It did not but no-one was complaining. After this Harpenden’s number eleven had a decent chance, following good build-up play, but the finish was found wanting. Tearle was replaced by Callum Stead – a like for like swap – but Callum Stead, hungry for action was soon on the ball, slipping a fine pass to Marsh who just failed to get his shot away. The Stead had his first shot, parried by the keeper and Marsh’s follow-up again cleared the bar.
Six minutes before half-time. Stead struck with a neat little goal. This came from a Marsh cross and Stead had a flicked header that was beyond the keeper’s reach, finding the top right corner. In another move, Dasilva tried to pick out Stead, but was marginally too slow. Marsh combined again with Dasilva whose fine shot brought an equally fine save at the expense of a corner. It looked good for Alex Brown, who encroached into the penalty area, releasing a shot that brought a really splendid save from the Harps’ keeper – and another corner. This more or less took us to half-time and Hitchin were worth their lead, but the home side’s contribution was solid.
The second half was a different affair with Hitchin imposing themselves, taking just two minutes to secure a second goal. Stead had scampered in possession, put in a cross that was initially missed by one player but it gave Dasilva the time for accuracy and he did not let himself down with a clean strike. Georgiou was secure at the back and even pushed forward in possession a couple of times with inventive play.
The third goal came after fifty-five minutes and from one of those defensive errors that players are prone to if they insist on trying to play across their penalty area. Dispossession is often the result and so it was with this and Dasilva’s pass to Stead saw the latter make it 3-0. Dasilva perhaps deserved another goal and he may well have had it but for the outstanding save made by the Harps’ keeper that drew deserved applause. He had an outstanding game.
Hitchin and Harpenden deployed more substitutes, as is usual and we must mention the wonderful save made by the sub keeper for the Harps, but he could do little about Stead’s goal that completed his hat-trick. He had parried a first effort, and the ball fell to Stead who scored from a difficult angle.
In this second half the difference in status between the two became more apparent. I liked Marlow Gough’s contribution and a lot more than the Harp number seven whose flashes of ‘passive aggression’ did not go unnoticed and Gough did well to brush it off as a bit of gamesmanship.
So, a sound job done by Hitchin, who travel to Leighton Buzzard next Saturday to take on another Spartan team in the form of Leighton Town. We wish Harpenden success in their forthcoming campaign.
Charlie Horlock, Sam Kelly, Alex Brown, Ryan Smith, Dan Webb, captain, Stan Georgiou, Lawrie Marsh, Josh Coldicot-Stevens, Rio Dasilva, GOAL, 47 MINUTES, Kye Tearle, Max Ryan.
Substitutes – all used.
Callum Stead, HAT-TRICK, GOALS IN 39, 55 AND 89 MINUTES, Nathan Godfrey, Jake Davis, Marlow Gouugh and Delsin Akom.
No details available
REFEREE: Mr Tom Ratherham – No details of his assistants.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN