What started poorly ended up something of a romp as Hitchin Town recorded their best win of the season so far against a team one place above them at the foot of the League table. Described by some as a ‘six pointer’, both teams sought to improve their position and success in this department fell to the hosts.
The midweek replayed League Cup match away at Royston Town was a good curtain raiser for this important game. I feel, that despite that 3-4 late reverse, the Canaries realised that they can be exciting and resilient – and score goals, and eight in two games is a pleasing statistic. The team showed they can play attractive and attacking football.
This game manifested a handsome win, and if we may have a little moan, the Canaries really ought to have won by a greater margin, which would have done a lot more good for the goal difference margin. So, let us get the poor start out of the way, because, for the first quarter or an hour or more, the Yeltz looked the likelier to snaffle the points.
Being British, we may discuss the weather which was utterly miserable, and as the players lined up at the tunnel there was the distinct impression that they would all rather be at home wrapping up Christmas presents. The icy rain nibbled at the soul and the foul breeze was determined to play tricks to make a good few moments comical and unpredictable. Hitchin had this rogue wind nominally in their favour as they kicked towards the open terraced end denuded of supporters who sensibly packed into the covered bits.
The visitors started strongly and before long they were attacking purposefully and before they did take the lead, they had set out their intentions. A sprightly Daniel Sweeney made a remarkable and unchallenged run and shot that was held by Michael Johnson who had a relatively peaceful and untroubled afternoon. A swift attack on the left culminated in a shot of such fearsome quality by Callum Moore that any keeper would have had difficulty with. A goal of such skilful execution cannot fail to inspire and so it did until the dramatic equaliser that had such an overall effect on the game.
Hitchin’s immediate reaction was a shot from the in-form Isaac Galliford that was held by Daniel Platt. Hitchin probed but without real penetration at this stage, having to deal with counter attacks where Lee Hughes, and the stylish Joel Taylor threatened to add to the Yeltz lead. Indeed Sweeney was presented with a free shot that was narrowly off-target. A corner was beaten away, but the visitors were hungry to maintain their better possession. This match will be remembered by home fans at least for a majestic performance by man of the match Michael Cain, who, like Topsy, grew and grew. He combined with Galliford and then fired one in that was painfully just wide.
All the qualities of the Royston game were there – the hunt for a goal, patient preparatory play, spoilt on occasion by misjudgement that can be attributed fairly to the tricky wind. Alfie Cue, who looks, with his slight frame like he needs to be tethered in a breeze, was again showing his predilection for the searching cross. He aided his team in their positive approach, but it was not until the twenty-eighth minute that this approach brought dividends. And all this during the wrath we have been told to call Storm Deirdre.
If you cause discomfort in the opposing penalty area it is satisfying of the last stab at the ball brings a goal amidst the gathering of combatants in that area. We love it, of course, since that stakes are high and one stab at the ball can make all the difference. We had just seen a move from Cain and Galliford where the former came so very close to equalising, matching Sweeney’s near miss minutes earlier.
Bickerstaff had placed the ball forward to Forde, but the ball fell to Chesmain whose cross was well defended. Forde had got the ball into the area and it ping-ponged around before Forde snaffled up the unconsidered trifle and we had our desired equaliser. It is rather curious that the visitors who had suggested they might go home with the points, faded noticeably from this point and the initiative was thus seized by the Canaries who did not relinquish it for the rest of the game.
We can forgive Chesmain his wild, wide shot, we can tolerate Sweeney’s next crack at goal, following a free-kick. But the second goal was a fair replication of the equaliser.
There was a Hitchin free-kick, following a foul on Cue and Chesmain took it. Galliford sent it in for an attempted Forde header. Cain was lurking in the penalty area and good job because this obliging fellow put the Canaries ahead. Cue put in a cross following the restart and Cain really ought to have bagged another. This had me doinghis namesake’s oft quoted sentence, here paraphrased as ‘you were only supposed to score a goal’ – and if he had it might have blown the doors off somewhere.
There were ten minutes to half-time and, curiously there was an announcement that the referee had indicated that one minute of time added on was allowed. All very well, but we had only played forty minutes. The referee played the right amount of time and a bit more for good measure, aware we all wanted to get into the warm for a bit. Hitchin had been good value for their lead and had thoroughly deserved it, particularly after their indifferent start. My only contention was that Cain, with his decent chance ought to have extended the lead.
Halesowen had the wind in their favour now, but apart from some comical clearances, you would not have noticed. In fact Hitchin dominated the second period to such an extent that a win of a greater margin would not have been undeserved.
Our indefatigable secretary, clad in arctic gear, with a Hitchin Town logo, of course, espied me sitting in the stand instead of braving the terraces with my pipe and said with mock scorn ‘Fair-weather reporter’ and it did cross my mind that I should return to my usual place, even if it would make me feel I was rounding Cape Horn in a windjammer.
Galliford sent one tantalisingly across the face of the goal, mildly indignant that no-one was there to complete things like a work of art. Cue departed with an appropriate limp and on came the exciting playmaker, Matt Lench who really ought to have been rewarded by a goal or even two, but he modestly told me afterwards that he could not hit a cow’s arse with a banjo at present. But he was a happy provider, nonetheless.
Cain turned up to hit one over the bar. He combined with Forde, and then won a free-kick, which brought a caution for Asa Charlton. Chesmain fired it straight at the keeper. On the hour mark there was a sumptuous breakaway attack on the left, involving Galliford and Lench, who put in the cross and it was Galliford who completed the move and Hitchin extended their lead. It had the effect of assuring us quietly that maximum points would not be in doubt.
A shot from Lench was deflected for a corner and once again Cain was there to strike and again t was just wide. I often like to say narrowly wide but it seems a contradiction in terms. Never mind. Dowie got forward now and again and fired one in for good measure, as if to emphasise that goals may come from anyone in Canary yellow today.
It did occur to me that a triumphant performance against a team, third from bottom might tempt us into a false sense of security, and St Ives, who walloped Kettering away recently might try to make us fall to earth – but that is to be seen on Wednesday night.
Hitchin seemed to have magnetic boots so to speak as they kept regaining possession. Lench nearly made it a fourth but it was deflected for a corner. Galliford sent it forward, Bickerstaff slipped it to Lench and Cain was again just short of the desired mark.
The fourth goal came just six minutes after the third and Dowie had another go, but this time it was Forde, who thus scored his second of the game. It was Lench who had taken the ball, curiously almost to the touchline and then pit in a sharp angled cross and Forde finished. Good show, you chaps, there is three points in the bag.
In a game like this and you are on the losing side that had been forced into meekness, there are still things to go wrong and add to the hurt. This came in the form of an own goal of existential clarity. By that I mean a corner came in and the centre-half, Kieran Morris powered a free header beyond the grasp of Daniel Platt. His reaction was one of stoic resignation, and I bet his toast had tumbled to the floor butter side down this morning.
As well as this, the only meaningful strike from the Yeltz came from Coyle who did his best to add to his magnificent first half strike. More possibilities came from the still rampant Hitchin. Lench was denied not once but twice, Cain could have crowned his glory, but we were not greedy. It was a fine win, and the three precious points were on the board and we rise to the dizzying heights of eighteenth in the table. Every journey begins with the first step. I agreed with our secretary that this team was not playing like a side languishing near the foot of the table, but there is much still to be done.
After the match I spoke to manager Mark Burke who, when asked why the second half was so satisfactory for the team he said ‘I told them to concentrate on playing it along the floor, despite the conditions.’ He confirmed that Noah Chesmain’s loan had been extended for another month (subject to confirmation) and when I playfully chided him about the near misses of the second half ‘I’ll take the five.’ Well, we will too. He agreed that the first quarter of an hour could have been a lot more awkward. ‘Big one Wednesday’ he reminded me. A win against in-form St Ives will be prestigious. I just hope it won’t be so cold and wet.
Michael Johnson, Jack Green, Noah Chesmain, Jay Dowie, Daniel Webb, captain, Lewis Ferrell, Michael Cain, GOAL,35 MINUTES, This reporter’s man of the match, Josh Bickerstaff, Ezra Forde, GOAL 28 MINUTES, GOAL 66 MINUTES, Isaac Galliford, GOAL, 60 MINUTES, Alfie Cue, (Matt Lench).
Substitutes not used – Scott Belgrove, Matt Nolan, Edwin Mensah & Craig Packham.
Daniel Platt, Matthias Curley, Jack Kelly, (Samuel Griffiths), Joe Fitzpatrick, Kieran Morris, OWN GOAL, 78 MINUTES, Asa Charlton, cautioned, Callum Boyle, GOAL, 7 MINUTES, Daniel Broagoli, captain, Lee Hughes, (Tobias Hayles-Docherty), Daniel Sweeney, cautioned, Joel Taylor, Yeltz star man.
Substitutes not used – Callam Mendez- Jones, Harry Higginson & Kieran Boucher.
REFEREE: Mr A Wilson – a solid game, ably assisted by Mr A Baldock-Smith and Mr M Jackson.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN