It was nominally derby day at Top field and a good Boxing Day attendance just short of 700 saw the Waders from Bedfordshire take all three points with two second-half goals, one being a penalty – the third such transgression conceded in two games by the Canaries.
There is no denying that this was a disappointing showing by the hosts who lacked a bit of fire in the belly, whose play was plodding prose with no ascendancy into poetry of motion and achievement. The reverse fixture had seen an equitable 1-1 draw and both teams today saw maximum points as the only acceptable option. The Waders had suffered a bit of a blip, losing touch with the play-off places whilst Hitchin, having hauled away from the relegation zone needed results to maintain that relative prosperity.
Waders had a sprinkling of ex Hitchin players and it was one of those who contributed fully to the first goal. Once underway we saw a positive move from the home side, and a blocked shot from Daniel Webb, following a miskick from Scott Belgrove almost brought a startling opening goal in the very first minute. That would have been nice. It all stemmed from Galliford’s free-kick. Hitchin stayed on the attack, with Alfie Cue looking lively. Cain won a corner, with the goalie unable to contain the spin of the ball. It was a poor corner, and a cross saw Belgrove blast his effort well over the cross bar.
Bradley Bell combined with Waders’ skipper Kieron Forbes, who had time to shoot but put the ball more or less into Fishpond Lane. Cue’s cross to Belgrove saw Sam Donkin cut it out well. We had become accustomed by now to Biggleswade’s rather startling away kit that looks like grubby training tops on top of black tee shirts, but it was different.
McNarma had a good run and cross; this was defended but came to Ben Walster whose forward ball reached Donovan Makoma, whose cross was wasted. We were really waiting, it seemed, for the game to get really started. A good move by Hitchin involved a number of passes but it was pushed back so far that it ended up as a defensive back pass to Michael Johnson. Bell tried a cross, Makoma tried to intervene and then Galliford won a free-kick. These inconsequential moments were frequent and had the effect of making this game a trifle dull overall.
The tall presence of David Longe-King and Tom Smith provided good spoiling tactics for the Waders. Bradshaw and Walster were also competent in this defensive area. Nevertheless, Hitchin did go on to have the slightly better half in terms of attempts on target and their play had the edge in terms of determination. But the away side did play themselves into greater possession. For Hitchin the real bright spark was Alfie Cue who had displayed a bit of flair and good intent.
An off- target shot from Biggleswade brought a corner saw Longe-King lurking with intent that was not realised, but there was another corner. It proved to be momentarily dodgy and almost letting in Bell. But only almost. Galliford reached the edge of the area but he lost his way with unintentional tentativeness. We needed clinical penetration but it did not manifest itself for either side.
A shot from Ferell was on target, but saved. Joe White had a half-chance, and Hitchin mounted a counter in a slow build-up. Bell had a cross by Bell aimed for the diminutive McNamara, and it was cleared. I liked Dowie’s persistence and Cain combined with Belgrove but Tom Smith headed the chance away.
Ideas were failing now – a shot came from Cue, good first touch, shoot on the spin, but Donkin had it comfortably covered. He punched another cross out and Walster tidied up. We were no further on to an opening goal. Two evenly matched teams were having a dour time of it and when a goal did come the slice of creativity was perhaps magnified in its significance.
With no goals at the interval no-one expressed great surprise and it was as if we hoped the game would give some greater enjoyment in the second period, like finding an unopened present that had become obscured behind the Christmas tree.
Hitchin began with an immediate attack that was thwarted. Galliford got into the penalty area with a following cross that Donkin pushed away, then fumbled the follow-up but with no real sacrifice to the opponents. A substitution for the Waders saw Liam Brook enter the fray and that proved to be somewhat decisive in both the goals that we saw today.
We were three minutes short of the hour and we witnessed a bit of creativity that from a neutral point of view was welcome but from a home point of view was depressing. A goal was a stark inevitability. There was one earlier one that landed on the roof of the net by way of warning – but the goal move was sumptuous and ex-Canary McNamara was the instigator.
McNamara did get an earlier shot away but on this occasion he was able to send in a low cross to the unmarked Liam Brooks who converted calmly and accurately. They deserved it because it was an incisive moment of creativity that the hosts had mostly lacked – but not entirely. What Hitchin did was not just enough. Mind you there was a moment that, although they could not get the ball in the net they muscled about three opposing players into the onion bag after an unsuccessful foray – with the usual pushing, shoving and following cautions from the referee. It was almost comical as all it really was signs of growing frustration. Bravado rather than braggadocio.
This frustration made the referee’s task more onerous but he, of course, cannot be blamed for player behaviour. It was as if the decision had been made, look this is a derby let us spice it up a bit with some bad behaviour. Hitchin did get the ball into the penalty area on a number of occasions and there were moments when an extended boot might have got lucky – more by accident than design, probably.
Conceding a penalty with five minutes to go was like an act of submission. It was like at Kettering. Heads had gone down and the price was paid. We had one moment of amusement when the announcer gamely tried to introduce the Hitchin substitute and made a hash of the pronunciation. Do not blame him – you have a go. Moses Olenrewaju. I came up with Oh-len- ree wah-ju, which is probably close enough. He had a line in fancy step-overs and ball control but had his pockets picked a few times during the display.
When Lucas Kirkpatrick entered the arena he received a few jeers and boos concerning his change of allegiance but it was a little half-hearted. The penalty, as I say the third in two games was slotted home by Joe White and it was all over bar the few shouts of approval at late Hitchin efforts, which were quite good but not enough for some compensation.
Biggleswade deserved the win for making their bit of creativity count and Hitchin next entertain Needham Market who, it must be painfully recalled put eight past the Canaries on a night early in the season that is still painful to the memory. At least we know they will opt to avenge that particular result. There is no disguising that we need points and we need them sooner than later. It will need a greater co-ordination of play and a restoration of the confidence that has brought impressive wins and will, I am sure, bring more as the campaign heightens in tension.
Michael Johnson, Edwin Mensah, Josh Bickerstaff, cautioned, Jay Dowie, Daniel Webb, captain, Lewis Ferrell, Michael Cain, cautioned, Scott Belgrove, (Moses Olanrewaju), Ezra Forde, Isaac Galliford, Alfie Cue, Sponsors’ Man Of The Match.
Substitutes not used – Josh Mollison (GK), Desejado DaSilva, Craig Packham and Kieran Barnes.
Sam Donkin, Jack Bradshaw, cautioned, Ben Walster, cautioned, Kieron Forbes, captain, Tom Smith, David Longe-King, cautioned, Jonny McNamara, Donovan Makoma, (Lucas Kirkpatrick), Joe White, PENALTY GOAL, 85 MINUTES, Matt Ball, (Liam Brooks, GOAL 57 MINUTES), Bradley Bell.
Substitutes not used – Brett Donnelly, Jordan Gent and Luca Allinson.
REFEREE: Mr T Hancock – controlled what became a difficult game, assisted by Mr D Carney and Mr I Pascu.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN