Well, this was a game involving four teams over a period of 120 minutes, and all at the Arena, on an artificial pitch – with an eleven am kick-off. It all made sense as suitable preparation for the FA Trophy game at Top field on Tuesday.
Harefield United currently play in the Spartan League, Premier Division and are nicely placed in a play-off position, but we do not know just how far the current season will go – and is subject to fortnightly reviews. I have not seen Harefield play since my days at Dunstable Town, whose former manager, Darren Feighery managed the Middlesex club for a short while.
As with the Colchester game, two Hitchin teams were selected, Greens and then Yellows for the second half – then unusually, and perhaps confusingly, a mixture for an added on extra half hour, readily agreed by both managers – so precious is preparatory playing time in these troubled times.
Harefield played in their customary red and black and held Hitchin at bay quite well for an opening ten minutes. Marcus Gouldbourne, with an attack on the right soon fired in the first volley, assisted by Kye Tearle, but this effort cleared the bar. It took fifteen minutes for Hitchin to take the lead- with Steve Cawley accurately judging the pace of a through ball and was able to finish simply.
Jonas Kalonda, who had impressed against Colchester had a near miss three minutes later as he tried to exploit a Harefield loss of possession. Gouldboure had another go and won a corner. Hitchin then won a free kick in a central area, but Kye Tearle could only see it ricochet off the Harefield defensive wall. Hitchin’s moves were often elaborate and sometimes too intricate as there were relatively few direct attempts on goal and Hartefield were indeed struggling to get their first shot away.
Their best chance took over half an hour but the final pass was far too strong. Ryan Smith seemed to assume the playmaker role, but passing was generally sound and very much in the modern mode. Ziddane Gourgei- Sequeia was anxious to impose himself on the game, but his first shot was straight at goal keeper Reece Mallett.
Hitchin’s second goal came ten minutes before half-time and it was mostly due to Kalonda’s persistent incursion into the penalty area, despite the challenges of two defenders. His shot actually travelled along the goal line, hit the far post and came out nicely for Ziddane to tap the ball into the net. Hope always springs eternal, however and, showing great character, the Spartan side scored right at the end of a half with a rare foray forward but the goal was neatly converted by Sam Adeptiba. It had been an enjoyable half, with Hitchin predictably dominating the junior team.
It was all change during the interval with the Yellows taking the field. Trains had trundled past right next to the ground, as at Berkhamsted, and I thought the line was rather busy for a Saturday and most trains were virtually empty. Mind you, the Arena was far from full as,despite the free entry, a friendly training game with experimental teams was of more crucial interest to both managers.
The Yellows contained mostly first team regulars and indeed I did prefer their varied style of play. Callum Stead was as hungry as ever for the goal chance and he fulfilled this potential within three minutes of the reumption – but the initial shot came from Alex Marsh, with Mallett doing well to parry the effort but Stead was there to poach a simple goal.
Luke Brown ought really to have scored with his chance next- he had ample time to set his sights accurately but he sent the ball deep into the forbidding foliage with a high and mighty effort. Harefield were even more restricted than they were in the first half, but they stuck at it gamely. Rio Dasilva was pleasingly active on the flank, and, as before, Walster and Eadie steadied the helm – with the latter relishing his role as a wing back, and as such he saw plenty of the ball.
Harefield had a brief purple patch where they engineered two shots on goal that were routine for Charles Horlock, but again some of the Hitchin preparatory play proved too intricate, with the vital last pass being intercepted. Thomas Payne sent one over the bar for the Hares and Steven Green tried to make the most of a defensive error and his shot won a corner.
Eadie had an on-target shot saved and Brown fired a rather tame shot straight at Mallett. The Hares had defended quite resolutely but they shipped a fourth goal through an error, which saw an accurate strike from Luke Brown. Another lack of judgement saw a fifth goal conceded on eighty-four minutes – it was another tap-in for the poacher Stead who thus scored his second of the game.
Dasilva tried to get on the score sheet right at the end but Mallett judged correctly. It was then we heard that there was going to be an extra half and hour, with a mix of players and there was no further score in this period, with Stead coming closest to scoring.
I think it was a very useful exercise for both squads as player fitness is vital in the lock down- and for Hitchin – they face strong Northern Premier side Mickelover, who have now dropped Sports from their name. As for the next League game – that is uncertain and so this might not be the last friendly played in this troubled season.
HITCHIN TOWN – FIRST HALF SELECTION
Josh Mollison, Harley Sule, Jonas Kalonda, Ryan Smith, Adedoyin Sanni, Dan Sears, Ziddane Gourgel-Sequeia, GOAL, 38 MINUTES, Josh Caldicott-Stevens, Steve Cawley, GOAL,15 MINUTES, Kye Tearle, Marcus Gouldbourne. Substitute -Ishmael Lukelo.
HITCHIN TOWN- SECOND HALF SELECTION
Charles Horlock, Daniel Akubuine, Layne Eadie, Lawrie Marsh, Dan Webb, captain, Ben Walster, Alex Marsh, Lewis Barker, Callum Stead, TWO GOALS, 47 AND 84 MINUTES, Rio Dasilva. Substitutes – Steve Cawley, Josh Caldicott-Stevens, Kye Tearle.
HAREFIELD UNITED – FIRST HALF SELECTION
Reece Mallett, Keiran Birch, Steven Green, Sidrit Sinajaj, Joe Clifton, Romario Rowe, Sam Adetiba, GOAL, 45 MINUTES, Laurie Bunce, Lindell Stewart, Marlon ?, Harry Chapman.
HAREFIELD UNITED SECOND HALF SELECTION
Reece Mallett, Dave Porchere, Steven Green, Dueanne McKennor, Joe Clifton, Elliott Dobbs, Thomas Payne, Petrit Krasniqi, Lenny Farhall, Richard Pacquette, Paul Underwood.
Referee Mr A Parker, who had a good game and seemed to enjoy himself.