Passing Barton Rovers on the way to Top Field I noticed the sign that read ‘Barton Rovers v Gone Fishin’, Stay Safe.’ A sign of the times no less. But at least we had a game, and what a good one it was, too, despite heavy rain all day.
With all players needing playing time in the current uncertainties regarding the season’s resumption, two Hitchin Teams were on show, one in each half, and they had mixed fortunes, in front of a rather sparse attendance.
Hitchin began well with Luke Brown having a very early shot, and then another following a cross from Callum stead, that was headed clear. Colchester soon showed they had a good turn of speed in terms of the counter-attack and Samson Tovide sprinted clear of the Canaries’ defence , but was thwarted by Charles Horlock who gave a man of the match performance with some outstanding saves – including one from the penalty spot towards the end of the first half.
United had a free-kick in a strong position just outside the area and Horlock was there to save from Harvey Sayer’s header. Tovide had another crack and Horlock’s one handed save was again notable, but he did not need any heroics when Sammie McLeod fired well over the cross bar.
Hitchin pushed forward and a long pass wide to the right saw Alex Marsh to well to keep the ball in play and his cross was delightfully accepted by Luke Brown who gave Hitchin the lead after just seven minutes. Horlock again saved from Sayer and Colchester looked very dangerous around the penalty box. Indeed they were awarded a free-kick right inside the ‘D’ and Jon Gilbert let fly only to see the ball hit the cross bar. Andre Hassenally had a pop and once again Horlock showed that the enforced lay-off has not affected his form.
Undaunted Hitchin attacked once more, winning a corner. From this Luke Brown scored his second of the game with a fine finish, after twenty-two minutes. The closest Horlock came to an error was when his intended clearance was blocked by Tovide, but the keeper recovered well, and in the next attack Marcus Gouldbourne tried a shot on the run, saved by Ted Collins who also saved Brown’s next effort. The pace was electric and the game was proving to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Towards the end of the first half Colchester were awarded an undisputed penalty and, well, this was Horlock’s night as he saved McLeod’s firm shot at the expense of a corner. Jon Gilbert then had a blocked shot and McLeod finished the half with a wayward effort. Hitchin had played with definite exuberance even if they were caught out in defence occasionally and United had pushed them hard. But options up front for the Canaries had been well in evidence.
So, it was 2-0 to the hosts at the interval and the second selection was already warming up. In the first period there were good touches for the Marsh twins, Ben Walster had been typically uncompromising, but the antics of Horlock had everybody talking. But for his heroics Hitchin would probably have conceded.
During the break I recalled the only other time I have seen Colchester play was when their senior team were playing Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road, and they managed a draw against the Railwaymen. That was in the old Fourth Division.
If Hitchin had proved to be the marginally better side in the first half, the next selection found the going a bit harder against the developing young professionals, but they were not without decent chances and indeed could have won the game with the very last kick. Colchester went at it with a will and a purpose, which was good to see as it provided excellent training for the Canaries. And we saw some new players as well, whose potential was no doubt noted.
One of these was Jonas Kalonda, who played wide and was adept at taking on defenders confidently and with some tricky touches. Talking of touches, Steve Cawley managed a good few of these after holding the ball well. Layne Eadie and Ryan Smith provided good defensive stability. Cawley latched onto a penetrating through ball but fired wide of the far post. For United , Andre Hassanally ran in possession and provided a fine cross but there was no-one in all blue to receive it. Just as well. Lewis Barker was in the thick of it as usual and he tried a header, which cleared the bar.
United had a goal disallowed for off-side, but I had the feeling that they would not end the evening without putting the ball beyond Josh Mollison – and so it proved to be as they pulled one back on sixty-nine minutes when Tovide nipped in to convert a cross from the right. Bunja conteh had a blocked shot for the hosts and Kalonda tried manfully to bamboozle defenders as he cut in from the flank. Ryan Smith;s effort was a good one, going just wide, but fol,owing a corner for Colchester, Jake Hutchinson found himself free of a marker and converted calmly to level the scores four minutes from the end.
Lewis Barker’s fine shot right at the end might have eluded the keeper, but it was not the case and a fighting draw was the result. Colchester had stepped it up in the second half and proved to be just a little too strong for the second Hitchin selection.
Hitchin next play at The Arena, on Saturday, against Harefield United, of the Spartan League, with the kick off scheduled for eleven am. The FA Trophy game versus Mickleover is on Tuesday, with the normal kick off at seven forty-five pm.
HITCHIN TOWN – FIRST HALF SELECTION
Charles Horlock, Kye Tearle, Ben Walster, Josh Caldicott-Stevens, Dan Webb, captain, Sam Okoye-Ahaneku, Alex Marsh, Lawrie Marsh, Callum Stead, Luke Brown, TWO GOALS, 7 AND 22 MINUTES, Marcus Goldbourne. Substitutes – Ziddanne Gourgel Sequeia, Dan Sears and Timmy Samuel-Alase.
HITCHIN TOWN – SECOND HALF SELECTION
Josh Mollinson, Daniel Akubuine, Layne Eadie, Harley Sule, Adedoyin Sanni, Rio Dasilva, Lewis Barker, Ryan Smith, Jonas Kalonda, (Ziddane Gourgel Sequeia), Steve Cawley, Bunja Conteh.
COLCHESTER UNITED U23
Ted Collins, Lordan Akoibire, (Aaron Brown), Matt Wearire, Billy Cracknell, Matt Tricker, Aikeo Smith, (Sam Cornish), Sammie McCleod, Jon gilbert, Andre Hassanally, (Jake Hutchinson – GOAL, 86 MINUTES), Harvey Sayer, Samson Tovide, GOAL, 69 MINUTES. Unused substitutes – Endurane Brown .
REFEREE: Mr L Jessup, assisted by Mr T Cartwright and Mr T Frost.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN