This was indeed a curious match, since although Hitchin trailed by an early penalty goal, a snatched point was always a distinct possibility, despite being reduced to ten men with the dismissal of Lewis Barker, but a well taken late goal for the visitors put the result beyond doubt and Peterborough Sports go top of the League on goal difference. For them it was a ground out win rather than a manifestation of lofty superiority; but of course they will not worry about that.
It was also a riposte to the rather surprise home defeat to Hitchin in a night of similarly miserable weather that was probably responsible for the lowest attendance of the season at Top Field. Eyebrows were raised at the magnitude of Hitchin’s win that night, but the visitors have not looked back since that defeat and have dealt out a good few wallopings as if to demonstrate that that unexpected defeat was merely a blip. They have not lost since.
There was a huge incentive for the visitors to avenge their defeat and then top the division, and they looked at once a different side that had meekly submitted to the Canaries in the corresponding fixture. The fact that they had a decent shot within the first couple of minutes was significant. Then there was a rather worrying injury to James Stevenson who was replaced by Lewis Hilliard. On resumption there was a spirited run from Jack Green whose cross was cut out by Lewis Moat. Then, oh calamity, when Charlie Horlock’s robust and illegitimate challenge resulted in his being injured, cautioned and a penalty was the verdict. This was blasted home in an emphatic manner by Daniel Lawlor who fired into the top right corner.
Hitchin responded positively and man of the match, Diogo Freitas Gouveia, sent in an inviting cross that forced Moat to concede a corner, an in-swinger that was defended well. It would be pertinent here to mention that throughout the game, precise defending from Peterborough was very much a key to their ultimate victory. A Hitchin free-kick resulted in an air shot from Gouveia and by now the flying winger Dion Sembie-Ferris was proving to be a bit of a handful. A fine cross from Jhai Dhillon forced Moat down low to cut this out, and then there followed a decent shot from Josh Moreman, held by Horlock. A Sports free-kick wide on the right saw a header saved, but there followed two further chances that were defended. Gouveaia, always marauding, had a shot blocked in the best Hitchin effort so far and the less said about Walster’s free-kick the better. Ryan Smith, who had a fine game was wide in his attempt. But suffice it to say that Hitchin had matched their lofty opponents well and but for that penalty concession they had played reasonably well with some well-constructed attacking moves. Smith had another go and again it was wide but not by much.
The interval seemed to come quite quickly despite the time added on for Stevenson’s injury. Hitchin had responded well to being a goal down, but conditions were not easy and many intended passes had gone astray. Yet the canaries had played positively against a very mean defence and it was plausible that an unforced error owing to the conditions might work in their favour – and Walster’s slip late in the first half had presented just such a chance that was defended – just.
During the interval I had time to reflect on just how relative our lives are. I had driven home after the return coach trip from Coalville, happy at the latest away win against a fancied side. It was my daughter’s birthday and when I arrived home the party was noisily in full swing. I entered cheerily enough and declared that my Club had recorded a thumping good away win. This was met with casual indifference, with one young man asking who beat whom. I told him and he confessed a complete indifference as to what was Hitchin Town. I was glad that I had completed my report on the coach as being banished to my bedroom to thump out the purple prose of triumph would have been too much for my injured sensibilities. A young lady told me my club tie was kinda cool but with the implication that this was the apparel of most old geezers. I was glad that the incomprehensible drum ‘n’ bass did not diminish my glow of victory. My daughter poured me a glass of wine and earnestly entreated that my feelings of triumph would not cause her any embarrassment. I assured her that I would not be bursting into a refrain of ‘We are seventeenth, say we are seventeenth.’ Most of her party goers would probably think that The Southern League was an eighties pop group in any case.
The second half was indeed eventful but not entirely for the best reasons. It will be remembered by home fans for the confrontation that followed Lewis Barker’s rash challenge that many thought deserved a yellow rather than a red card – but the coming together of all and sundry following it cannot be dismissed as passionate involvement; it is to be filed under Regrettable Moments. Before this occurrence there was some positive play from both sides. Max Ryan had come on for Jack Green and Marshy tried one form range that had cleared the bar. Moreman had a fair diagonal shot that Horlock held. The energetic Gouveia sent in a cross that Dhillon tried to reach but had to be content with a corner kick. This brought another Dhillon effort that was saved by Moat.
Moreman robbed Ryan of possession and had a clear run on goal but he failed to score, somewhat inexplicably. Hitchin applied some more pressure, winning a corner or two , with Dhillon having a deflected shot. A free-kick form Hilliard saw a shot from Richard Jones deflected for a corner. This was punched clear by Horlock. Hitchin applied more pressure but were again met by precise defending. There was an amusing moment when the referee blew his whistle to halt play whilst he did up his bootlaces, and then this official had to deal with what was an uncomfortable confrontation following a challenge by Lewis Barker that earned this player a straight red card – which many saw as rather harsh, but the visitors’ reaction might suggest otherwise. On the far side was one of those coming together of all players, officials and the world and his dog. Very dramatic indeed, and Hitchin were now down to ten men and the task of salvaging the game was now more difficult, but they did their level best with some well constructed moves.
Cameron Johnson, who had come on as a substitute, proved to be very efficient and his fine shot needed an equally fine save from Horlock. Then there was a splendid effort from Gouveia that very nearly caused a deflected own goal. That would have been nice thought I , sniggering devilishly. Da Silva came on for Dhillon and Sports’ sub Vieira had a shot saved. Such was the balance of the game that it was still entirely possible that Hitchin could snaffle an equaliser, but a late , well-taken goal on a quick counter attack saw Sembie-Ferris score a second goal three minutes from the end of normal time. The cross from Johnson was inch perfect. And that was that really – but I felt that Hitchin had played well enough to obtain a hard earned point.
It was not to be and Peterborough Sports not only won but had the rather nice feeling of realising that they were now top of the pile. If it was not convincing it was realistic enough and on reflection the ball had not flowed kindly for the Canaries tonight – but they had, at least played well, despite the conditions. Mention must be made of the very positive effort from the substitute Kye Tearle, who had replaced Josh Coldicott-Stevens. Overall, I think it might bode well for the forthcoming trip to Lowestoft on Saturday. The early setback of the penalty had its effect as did the dismissal of an aggrieved Lewis Barker. But I feel the team can hold its head high – it was just not their night.
Charlie Horlock, cautioned, Jack Green, (Max Ryan , 45), Layne Eadie, Ryan Smith, Dan Webb, captain, Ben Walster, cautioned, Lewis Barker, dismissed, straight red card, Jhai Dhillon, (Rio Da Silva, 80), Joshua Coldicott-Stevens, (Kye Tearle, 65), Alex Marsh, Diogo Freitas Gouveia.
Substitutes not used – Brett Donnelly and Josh Mollison.
Lewis Moat, Mitchell Griffiths, Daniel Bucciero, cautioned, Paul Malone, Richard Jones, cautioned, Daniel Lawlor, PENALTY GOAL, 6 MINUTES. Dion Sembie -Ferris, GOAL, 87 MINUTES, James Stevenson, (Lewis Hilliard, 3), Mark Jones, (Avelino Vieira, 77), Joshua McCammon, Joshua Moreman.(Cameron Johnson).
Substitutes not used – Luke Elsom and Charlie Jemson.
REFEREE: Mr E Kaye assisted by Mr C Howes and Mr P Mihalache.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN