To help us welcome the new season, neighbours Stevenage send a sizeable squad which if nothing else, gave the fledgling Hitchin defence a thorough testing and praise must go to both home keepers who, in their time between the posts, performed well when called upon.
Of course there were many new faces who lined up with some hardy perennials and what ensued was an entertaining if one-sided game. Pre-season results are not as important as the managers’ scrutiny of their possibles and probables. It may be a small matter but I found the Stevenage away kit to be singularly unattractive and it looked as if the players had been collectively sick over the shirt fronts after consuming examples of the fast food they were advertising. I noticed too that the officials looked rather posh in light blue tops.
The team sheet was rather full as it detailed two dozen players for both sides, with seven of the away team being collectively known as ‘Triallist”. It was spelled with one ‘l’ as well. Perhaps there is a reason or not naming them, with or without the extra letter. So, off we went and there was an immediate chance for the visitors. Then there was a cross from the right that goalie Charlie Horlock appeared to spill but the follow-up was inaccurate. Lukas Didik had a shot from range and this was quite significant as Hitchin seemed restricted to these speculative efforts, being unable to make significant inroads at close range.
Stevenage were stroking the ball about comfortably and they took the lead after fourteen minutes with a free header from Kurtis Guthrie following a cross from the right. There was a bit of déjà vu about this. Horlock then saved a low shot, followed by a dubious penalty being awarded to the visitors. This was splendidly saved by Charlie Horlock but he could do little about the second goal a few minutes later. This was scored by Guthrie after Horlock had gallantly saved the first effort.
The best chance of the half for Hitchin was when ex Dunstable and Hemel Hempstead striker Arel Amu evaded the offside but found the goalkeeper too alert for the completion of the move. There was a shot from Ryan following a cross from the right and a Lewis Ferrell free kick was headed wide by Dan Webb. These were bright moments but Stevenage were quietly and efficiently in control. Alex Reid of Stevenage had a shot saved and Guthrie’s shot was looking for a hat-trick but Horlock denied him.
At half-time I felt the game had gone much as expected. The League team had not disappointed and had played some attractive and flowing football. Playing against senior opponents is always worthwhile and indeed the Hitchin defence found themselves having to increase their work rate in the second half and they must be commended for only conceding once more.
Horlock produced a fine save from a header and by way of contrast Amu at the other end found himself possessed of a chance but unfortunately fell over himself. The third and final goal came just after the hour mark and is attributed to ‘Triallist’. Substitutions were numerous as demanded from such a game. I lost track of it and it was not helped by a couple of chaps sprinting manfully without numbers on their shirts.
Without putting too fine a point upon it, the visitors attacked with impunity and the home defence acted with admirable tenacity and I felt it did them the world of good.
When home triallist goalie, Ciaran Gordon-Stream came on he pulled off a brace of notable saves and earned a good few brownie points for his spirited display. Stevenage were thus prevented for making the score more emphatic, despite their constant creation of chances, especially on the right flank. There was one late chance for Hitchin but this was blazed wide.
It was, in some ways, a gentle start and we look forward to the home game against Wealdstone on Saturday.
I list the squads, and forgive me on giving up the listing of the substitutions.
First half: Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Alex Anderson, Charlie Hayford, Dan Webb, Captain, Lewis Ferrell, Max Ryan, Lukas Didik, Arel Amu, Charlie Thake, Kieran Barnes.
Subs: Ciaran Gordon-Stream, Jack Thomas, Joe Gauge, Juma Omar, Marcus Crowther, Jay Dowie, Lewis Barker, Taishan Griffiths, Scott Belgrove, Dev Simms, Leon Okuboyejo, Sam King, Ricardo Green.
First half: Triallist, Chris Stokes, Paul Digby, Scott Cuthbert, Charlie Carter, Joel Byron, Triallist, Terence Van Cooten, Triallist, Alex Reid, Kurtis Guthrie, TWO GOALS, 14 and 28 minutes, .
Second half: Triallist, Luther James Wildin, Loise Fernandez, Triallist, Triallist, Goal, 61 minutes, Emmanuel Sonupe, Jon Ashton, Danny Newton.
REFEREE: Mr W Finnie, assisted by Mr L Grimsey and Mr L Jessup
REPORT BY PIPEMAN