So, the season ends with some domestic silverware, and deservedly so. The Tudors finally faced the Canaries after conceding a defeat in this same fixture last season without a ball being kicked at the chosen venue of Berkhamsted. The Conference South team will have few complaints at the result tonight as they rarely looked dangerous in front of goal.
Hitchin, their confidence restored after a fine away win at Banbury United, had some enforced team changes tonight as Isaac Galliford and Michael Johnson were on holiday, but it did mean a cameo appearance of Matt Lench and another game for the youthful Tiernan Parker, on loan from Luton Town. This young goal keeper played in the away defeat at King’s Lynn on a blustery afternoon but played that game like a seasoned veteran. He also makes the news for conceding and then saving a penalty tonight.
Of interest was the presence in the Tudors of a one –time Canary , Cav Cotter and Arel Amu, the former Dunstable Town player, whose father is the Vice-chairman of the Bedfordshire club, here tonight to cheer on his senior son.
I arrived at the ground and found that unlike Private Pike, I was not on the list, but I was recognised by the Hertfordshire FA officials, who waved me into the ground as if bestowing a life-long favour, but only after I had produced my passport, driving licence and Nectar card. The match was administered by the County FA, (lots of gentlemen in blazers and ties), we were the venue and guests in our own home.
A rather modest attendance, for a Cup Final was not really tempted into feelings excitement and anticipation as the opening sorties produced no direct shots on goal, but it was classy stuff, all the same. Belgrove was on the tail end of an immediate chance but it was neatly defended.
Ferrell’s free kick was aimed at Bickerstaff, but it was skipper Webb who almost made a connection. Play was a little subdued and I glanced at my team sheet and mistakenly read the Tudor number seven as having the forename of Marjorie. I thought it might be some kind of gender issue statement, but saw it was Magloire, surname Muyembe. My mistake, no offence intended there.
Lench was already exhibiting his silky skills and it is no surprise that he plays at a higher level. In his few games for Hitchin in the league games he was instrumental in the garnering of important points.
Bird put in a good cross that was well held by Danny Boness. Lench and Bird combined again but got their wires crossed and Hemel turned that into an unsuccessful attack. But Hemel were winning corners as if they knew that set pieces had often been the Hitchin Achilles heel. Defending was stout and confident though.
Time’s winged chariot was rolling relentlessly and we were yet to be treated to some sparkling goalmouth incidents. Bird attempted to take on three defenders and was predictably halted in the enterprise, but there was a pleasing willingness about the Canaries. This was apparent when a lady fan was squirming some yards from me, in need of a pee and told me she could not hold it any more. You will miss a goal was my comment but I was mistaken.
Lench took a free-kick wide on the right, which went straight to the arms of the waiting Boness. Hemel had another corner, just as the relieved lady returned and we saw Lench make two important defensive clearances. The wily Lench won another free-kick, delayed as he tied his hair up in a neat bun. Webb was nearly in there.
There was another free-kick for the hosts, taken by Lench and Belgrove’s blocked shot was the closest we had had come as yet. Hemel had another free-kick, wide on the right, this was headed away. Bird seized on a loose ball close to the half way line and his forward ball was manfully seized on by Belgrove, who was fouled in the area and referee, Mr Cheek, sporting a bit of a beard and a few extra pounds since I last saw him, awarded a penalty to the home side.
Jay Dowie was elected to take the kick and he converted, keeping his record of totally successful penalties this season. We had played thirty-four minutes and the Canaries had nudged in front. Amu had a shot wide for the Tudors two minutes after the penalty, and it seemed to me that he was receiving little service. Hitchin won a corner which saw Belgrove nick one on without much venom.
Then, would you Adam and Eve it, Hemel were awarded a penalty after Parker had acted rashly and Tudor skipper Jordan Parkes obliged with the spot kick only to see Parker atone for his error with a fine save at the expense of a corner. Well done that lad.
So, we reached half-time with the home side ahead. It had been a fair half, technically quite impressive but not edge of the seat stuff, given the occasion. Belgrove, and Bird had been impressive and Lench had contributed greatly to the stability of play.
Hemel began the second period with intent and their early forays called for precise defending. It was apparent that this penalty goal lead was a little slender, but as usual we all hoped we could avoid the drama of extra-time and/or penalties.
Hitchin won a corner, five minutes in, and Lench launched it, to see it headed away for a throw-in. Belgrove had a run, but was forced wide and the opportunity was lost. It was becoming grim stuff. Lench put a shot wide under pressure. Kazeem tried a shot on the turn that went wide, but it was an enterprising move. Belgrove almost got a pass through to Bird. Kazeem’s cross, aimed for Belgrove but it was brought away by Monlouis and Parkes blasted it wastefully over the bar.
Max Ryan reprised several moments of promise from the first half and there were many comments about his notable improvements in each appearance. Lench tried a cunning cross to Belgrove that was neatly anticipated. There was a little bit of scrappy play, but this was soon eradicated. A home free kick hit the defensive wall and Dowie’s lob was deflected for a corner, which went for another. This proved to be too far for the lurking Webb, who has often sneaked in to snap up the opportunity.
Hemel were unexpectedly subdued in forward moves but they did have some chances. Ferrell effectively defended one shot. Hemel had a corner, which was cleared, with bird trying to get forward. Ryan had a run and his cross was blocked for a corner. There was under a quarter of an hour to go.
Hemel substitute Sinclair, who was quite nifty on the ball, had a weak shot that was gathered, but he had another go, assisted by Amu but the effort sailed over the cross bar.
We had reached the latter stages and the spectre of an equaliser and extra-time was still uppermost in our minds – and this was handsomely dispensed with when a goal in stoppage time put paid to that. Bird and Belgrove combined and it was the latter that bagged the second goal, erroneously attributed to the former by our announcer.
So, Hitchin concluded their season with another win and the retention of the Trophy they had won by default last season. Medals were given, applause was fulsome and polite, pictures were posed for and that was the end of our season that ended on a welcome high note. The awards ceremony will follow on Friday evening and then we can all rest and reflect until the pre-season assessment games.
Tiernan Parker, Jack Green, Al-Amin Kazeem, Jay Dowie, PENALTY GOAL, 34 MINUTES, Dan Webb, captain, Lewis Ferrell, Max Ryan, Josh Bickerstaff, Scott Belgrove, GOAL, 90+1 MINUTES, this reporter’s man of the match, Jay Bird, cautioned, Matt Lench.
Substitutes (all unused): Ezra Forde, Alex Anderson, Matt Nolan, Edwin Mensah and Jack Thomas.
HEMEL HEMPSTEAD TOWN
Danny Boness, Kav Cotter, Joe Howe, Jordan Parkes, captain, Tom Hamblin, Oliver Swain, Magloire Muyembe, cautioned, (Rob Sinclair, 62 minutes), Mark Randall, (Joel Nketia, 80 minuites), Arel Amu, Kieran Monlouis, Sydney Ibie.
Substitutes not used – J’Ardelle Stirling, Jake Baker, Laurie Walker GK.
REFEREE: Mr S Cheek, assisted by Mr D Lawson and Mr T Cartwright, with P Evans as the fourth official.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN