In an open, entertaining game, Hitchin secured a second successive league win and against a team that had humiliated them with a five-nil thumping back in August, which still remains the heaviest defeat of the season. On Tuesday the Canaries notched up their best win of the season in the away match against the jaded Peterborough Sports. The question was whether the hosts today could replicate that startling piece of form and the answer was generally, yes – but it was a fairly even match.
The only change from that midweek victory was Alex Marsh replacing Jhai Dhillon who had failed a fitness test.
Hitchin made a bright start, going forward eagerly, and following an ambitious cross from Ben Walster, a free-kick from the right was defended and the visitors broke from defence with Mitchell Bottfield cross blocked by Lewis Rolfe, who had an outstanding game in the centre of defence but this was spoiled later by his receiving an habitual caution, which he presumably regards as an occupational hazard. I fear he has accumulated enough now for the enforced rest of an imminent suspension.
The first serious attempt on goal was when, from a move and cross from the left Steve Cawley attempted a side-footed shot from close range that was well saved by Joseph Slinn.
A Church free-kick from Bottfield was dealt with by Rolfe and then Cawley cease fouled. From this free kick there was a replicated move on the left and this time it brought success, with Jacob Hutchinson converting calmly to give Hitchin the lead.
There was more positive stuff when Walster combined with Hutchinson and Marsh had a blocked shot. Alvechurch countered quickly but their moves, although intricate were not effective.
But they were rallying and ten minutes after the Hitchin goal they were level thanks to a wonderful piece of individual skill from Taylor Morrison, whose move in possession on the left was largely unchallenged and his excellent low shot found the bottom right corner. This notable equaliser was suitably celebrated and it appeared to galvanise the visitors who had a feisty ten minutes redolent with possibilities.
But on the half hour mark, a fine forward pass found Alex Marsh who shot well, with the ball coming back off Slinn’s legs and it seemed to me that Marsh completed the move to restore the home lead. He was announced as the scorer and all seemed well. After the game had finished we were informed that the goal was in fact an own goal credited to Taylor Morrison, giving him the dubious distinction of scoring for both teams.
This might seem to be the definitive correction but I note that the Southern League website credits Marsh which will please the player, no doubt. So the jury may be out and I leave to you to take what version you choose. The important thing was that Hitchin had re-established the lead, which they took to the interval.
Before this there were chances for both sides and following an Alvechurch free-kick, Bottfield headed over the bar. There was some good stuff from the sprightly Kevin Da Velga Monteiro. He was both lithe and lissom, good in possession and pace.
A free-kick from Bottfield towards the end of the half was gathered by Horlock who had not truly been tested as yet. A suggestive move from Hitchin moments before the whistle saw Marsh cross well but Slinn intervened safely.
I had enjoyed the game so far as both teams seemed to allow the other to play and this suggested there were more goals to come.
I noted at the interval that the visiting club officials were involved in a lively discussion about their team’s tactics and were supplying their own remedies. Hitchin had been solid with Webb, Rolfe and Caldecott-Stevens comforting in defence with Jack Green and Ben Walster as efficient as always.
I felt that Hitchin needed an additional goal to bring some degree of comfort. There were no substitutions as yet. Upon resumption Cawley had a half chance. There was no hat- trick for him today but he had an honest hardworking game nonetheless.
The additional goal I spoke of was not too long in coming and it was rather a good one but it brought recriminations.
Hitchin had won a corner and this found Diogo Freitas Gouveia who had been troublesome to the home defence in the first half. He controlled the ball well and fired through the crowded penalty area and found the bottom corner. It was an audacious goal and before the celebration was concluded Kyle Morrison had a few choice words with his keeper, no doubt apportioning blame. Slinn’s protestations about being probably unsighted received no sympathy and none came from the visitors’ bench.
It was, really, the goal that cost Alvechurch the game and I do understand the frustration felt there. The visitors did what they could but were met by the increasingly efficient Hitchin defence.
There was a little sideshow to divert my attention when an enthusiastic flotilla of small boys commandeered an errant match ball and set up their own little game on a patchy green part of the terracing. This is not unusual at many grounds and in a way I admired their cheek. Their escapade was cut short by our programme editor who a good many years ago might have cuffed a few ears but the young lads surrendered the ball for its more legitimate purpose of being a touch line spare and made do with a balding tennis ball.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as the cliché goes in Westerns, there was almost an immediate reply from the visitors who might well have pulled one back. A cross was whipped in from Archie Brennan and the sinewy Montiero blasted the ball wastefully over the bar.
Walster shot wide for the home team and a fair cross from Linden Dovey begged for but did not receive a proper connection. Bottfield seized on another chance and Horlock’s brave save resulted in him needing a bit of treatment. Green’s effort cleared the bar and an inviting through ball for Hutchinson saw Slinn get there first.
An interchange of passes from Gouveia and Cawley saw the latter shoot wide. Marsh saw his header miss the mark and Kyle Morrison was way off the mark with his effort. Both Hitchin substitutes Kayne Eadie and Max Ryan both had goes on goal and it was now clear that the game was drifting beyond Alvechurch’s reach.
Hutchinson’s late run might have brought a fourth but it was not to be but the three points were secure and Hitchin’s haul is now relatively respectable. It was satisfying to lay the ghost of the last meeting and on Tuesday the team travels to Stratford Town which promises to be a tough game.
But we can have no complaints -six points and seven goals in the last two games and only one conceded and from a football point of view that was a goal worth seeing never mind who scored it and who for.
Once more the team has shown that it can perform well in all departments and confidence is surely on the rise.
Charlie Horlock, Sponsors’ Man of The Match , Jack Green, Ben Walster, Joshua Coldicott-Stevens, Daniel Webb, captain, Lewis Rolfe, cautioned, Lewis Barker, Alex Marsh, Stephen Cawley, (Max Ryan, 81) Jacob Hutchinson, GOAL 13 MINUTES, Diogo Freitas Gouveia, GOAL, 51 MINUTES, This reporter’s star man, (Layne Eadie, 76).
Substitutes not used: Bradley Bell, Rio Da Silva and Brett Donnelly.
Joseph Slinn, Linden Dovey, Taylor Morrison, GOAL 23 MINUTES and an OWN GOAL 30 MINUTES, Ryan Wollacott, (Kieron Miller, 65), Kyle Morrison, captain, cautioned, Joseph Hull, Archie Brennan, (Louis Monaghan, 75,) Mitchell Bottfield, Nehemiah Zazi, Aaron Birch, Kevin Da Velga Monteiro, star man.
Substitutes not used: Matthew Sargeant, GK and Syrus Warren-Paul.
REFEREE: Mr A List assisted by Mr D Knox and Ms L Impey.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN