In a thoroughly entertaining and open game at Top Field, the two teams shared the points in front of Hitchin’s best home attendance of the season so far. The Canaries may not have won, but with skipper Dan Webb heading the equaliser in stoppage time, it almost felt like a victory. It was certainly a great celebration of Non-League Day.
Bromsgrove Sporting are the successors to the old Bromsgrove Rovers and, interestingly their away kit of green and white was once the home kit, which has been replaced by red. The Worcestershire side are one of the best supported in the Division and frequently enjoy attendances in excess of a a thousand – and they travel in good numbers as well. They began today with three wins, three draws and three losses, whilst Hitchin sought only their second league win. Of considerable interest that Sporting new signing Kyle Lincoln had played for both Hitchin and Dunstable Town.
The unpredictable nature of this game was exemplified early when experienced goalkeeper Tony Breeden spilled what seemed an innocuous cross. Leon Broadhurst headed away the following effort and this brought an immediate counter move that featured the man of the match Michael Taylor who went on to torment the Hitchin defence but somehow failed to score. In his last match he scored four and I am not greatly surprised at that.
Hitchin fielded new signing Alex Marsh, who is himself an exciting player and he too comes into the category of Ought To Have Scored. The probing start did suggest defensive vulnerabilities of both teams and our first taste of drama was when Marsh was through with a definite goal scoring opportunity (to use the approved phraseology), when Breeden fouled him and inexplicably did not receive even a yellow card – some were calling for red. But the goalkeeper was allowed to stay and face a new penalty taker. Some of us sighed in woeful expectation as six out of seven such spot -kicks have failed; we were therefore not surprised when Ben Walster’s powerful strike sailed over the bar and came down with snow on it, probably in the swimming pool opposite the ground.
We may not have been surprised but we were aggravated – with the memory of Stephen Cawley’s miss at Maidstone United, that, if successful, would probably have brought a lucrative and potentially successful replay. In a sense this miss was as important as the psychological effect on the team induced a temporary lack of confidence. The irony was that, five minutes later the visitors were themselves awarded a penalty and Richard Gregory scored in a manner that made me think of Mr Punch’s phrase ‘That’s the way to do it’. We felt a little deprived but it was of our own making.
Our deprivation was somewhat relieved in another ironical moment, again after about a further five minutes, which brought the equaliser. Stephen Cawley had encroached in the penalty area and kept possession – he then slipped the ball across the face of goal and Leon Broadhurst unwittingly turned the ball into his own net. The game was becoming all the more intriguing – and we were in anticipation when Bradley Bell was through on goal but stumbled before he could effectively pull the trigger. It was not the last one on one in this pulsating game.
A promising move originated by Max Ryan afforded Cawley a splendid chance but his shot rivalled the height of the missed penalty and brought the usual withering comments. A chance for Gregory to add to his tally was somehow spurned and he ought to have done better. Boadhurst, injured, departed the arena and was replaced by Thomas Taylor.
Jay Dowie began a move that included Jack Green, Max Ryan and Bradley Bell that saw Breeden rush from his line to nullify the chance and then, at the other end Charlie Dowd managed to pester in an attack or two, with Nathan Hayward then setting up Michael Taylor whose shot found only the side netting.
In the last minutes of the half there were some impressive close-passing moves from Sporting threatened to breach the Hitchin defence, and we were thankful for the alertness and skill of Charlie Horlock. Marsh won a corner for Hitchin and after this was beaten away the whistle went for the interval. It had been an enjoyable match so far with sporting having probably;y the better goal-scoring opportunities in terms of number.
Sporting had brought a number of supporters and a sizeable number of officials that kept our chairman and me busy serving teas and coffees. Most were agreed that we had seen a fine contest so far. I expect that both managers highlighted the propensity for defensive errors, whilst admitting that forward play had been impressive – excepting the glaring misses. I had noted the motto of Kingstonian FC on a pennant in the boardroom – ‘Palman Qui Meruit Ferat’ – which translates as ‘Let he who merits the palm possess it’ – which can be further explained as ‘ if you wish to gain recognition, work hard for it.’ That became evident in the second half.
Hitchin recommenced with an immediate attack that was nipped in the bud, and the visitors had brought on Greg Mills for Charlie Dowd. Jhai Dhillon won a corner, which was defended, but Dhillon soon followed up with another effort that was held by Breeden. Dhillon was involved in a smart move that gave Marsh a one on one and what looked like a certain goal. Ironically, Breeden’s stumble placed his body in exactly the right place to prevent the goal and Marsh held his head in disbelief and disappointment.
Kyle Lincoln’s vital defensive header kept out another attempt and at the other end a Sporting corner brought a dismissed penalty appeal – one of twp reasonable appeals and one optimistic one. Greg mills had a shot blocked, and then another following a free-kick. Ryan’s run and shot were commendable and so was Breeden’s stop, but that chap Michael Taylor looked increasingly like scoring. Marsh won a free-kick for the Canaries and his shot took some paint off the top of the cross bar. James Verney came on as a substitute and his first slice of action brought a caution.
I thought that the next goal for whoever would probably turn out to be the winner – and when this goal did come it was an absolute peach of a free-kick. This came from Shaquille McDonald and believe me it was worth his double somersault of celebration. His then, had been a timely substitution.
It came with about ten minutes of normal time to go it looked as if the victory would go to the visitors – and they were holding out well. But another substitute – Leon Okuboyejo had a final say in the score when, deep in stoppage time he persisted along the left, shrugging off challenges to turn in a fine cross that enabled Dan Webb to head a deserved equaliser. I do not often jump up in celebration but I was taken by the moment.
Now I have calmed down I will add that our home form really ought to exceed the desperate seizure of a goal in stoppage time. But, it will come and the team does look a lot more cohesive now.
The point was welcome but Hitchin remain second from bottom – just above Leiston – whom we visit soon – with the Tuesday game at Royston Town preceding it.
Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Ben Walster, Jay Dowie, Daniel Webb, GOAL , 90 +4, Josh Bickerstaff, Max Ryan, (Leon Okuboyejo, 72), Jhai Dhillon, Stephen Cawley, Alex Marsh, cautioned, Bradley Bell, (James Verney, cautioned,)
Substitutes not used – Lewis Ferrell, Alexander Anderson and Devonte Simms.
Tony Breeden, Thomas Rankin, Jack Wilson, Nathan Hayward, Leon Broadhurst, OWN GOAL, 23, (Thomas Taylor), Kyle Lincoln, cautioned, Charlie Dowd,(Greg Mills), Joshua Quaynor, Michael Taylor, this reporter’s man of the match, Richard Gregory, PENALTY GOAL, 19, William Shorrock.
Substitutes not used – Jonathan Brown, GK, Kieren Westwood.
REFEREE: Mr J Crofts assisted by Mr R Stanley and Mr S Hamilton.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN