The most memorable moment of this seemingly low key friendly was the audacious equaliser, from range, scored by Baldock Town’s Sean Brettle after seventy-two minutes. It showed, among other things that a team can be a little under pressure, but a moment of skill can alter matters significantly.
Baldock Town ply their trade in the Spartan South Midlands League, Premier Division, and they will, I suspect, be rather pleased with the result at a windswept Top Field. The players did find it a challenge to adapt to the breezy conditions, made apparent by the passes missing their target with an unintentional exuberance,
The opening was somewhat different from the game at Eynesbury insofar as Hitchin sought immediate inroads through to goal and looked pleasingly dangerous on the right flank, occupied notably by Jack Green who for some presumably tactical reason moved more infield as time progressed, his place taken by Trey Charles. What free-kicks were awarded the hosts were not profitably exploited – but the visiting defence was increasingly given a thorough work-out.
A move instigated by the eager Charlie smith culminated with a shot that cleared the bar and his later header following a free kick was adequately defended. An Elliot Bailey ‘assist’ resulted in a blocked shot from Lucas Kirkpatrick and this was followed by a cross from the very able Jack Thomas towards Bailey until the goalkeeper intervened. For Baldock, I was impressed with the defending of Josh Furness and Dean Gilbert – also the forward play of Owen Robertson – who, at times seemed all dressed up and nowhere to go, as support for him was a little sparse.
Play was relatively intricate in the build-up but vital passes were interfered with by the breeze or an unintentional inaccuracy. The melancholy fact was that after a good twenty minutes neither goalkeeper had his fingers tingling from a blistering shot and they were both mostly employed with retrieving measured back passes. Jack Green was bustling and it is a pity that his measured cross was misjudged by all. A cross a minute later, with Green as the recipient saw the danger cut out by goal keeper Adam Harpur. This keeper also cut out, rather smartly, a promising run in possession by our Jack.
At the other end there was a bit of a let-off when Sean Brettle was permitted a shot owing to a parry from Michael Johnson, who put the ball out for a corner. This was met, on the volley by Alex Coppin whose accuracy did not match the aggressive intent.
After a pleasing combinational move from Smith and Charles, Bailey tried his luck, but was thwarted by Harpur. It was at this time I noticed the loquacious linesman. This enthusiastic gentleman was not above commenting on play as well as his ordinary communication with players. I liked it, all his ‘well played’ and other remarks that serve to remind us that officials are all major enthusiasts for the game and despite their necessary neutrality can appreciate good moments of play. They rarely deserve the opprobrium heaped upon them in more competitive games by partisan spectators.
Meanwhile a Trey Charles cross brought a Kirkpatrick corner and from this Robbie burns shot wide. Charles had a run and found his shot blocked. Shortly after cunning back flick brought another corner defended well by Josh Furness. Hitchin were dominating forward play but were met by resilient defending and, in retrospect it was of no great surprise that the interval was reached without a goal being scored.
A disgruntled home supporter muttered that the home side ought to be ahead against a lower placed team, but I reflected a game at Creasey Park, when Dunstable Town were in the Spartan Premier and their visitors, Southern Premier Chesham United, got their backsides firmly kicked and found themselves out of the FA Cup. This game today, of course, was but a pre-season friendly – nevertheless I find it generally true that the junior team always raises its game, which is why we get all those ‘upsets.’ Hitchin looked likelier to score but the visitors had defended with meticulous care but had not really threatened at the other end.
I walked to the other end, that is to say the end with the extensive concrete terracing and from there I noticed how undulating the pitch is from this viewpoint. But it was sunny and warm despite the harried leaves being blown across the hallowed turf. A goal, I thought, is what this game needs and hey presto, within two minutes my wish was granted, and it was a goal for Hitchin Town.
There was an early cross from Jack Green defended for a corner. This was not, as later, a cunning in- swinger but an unusual along the floor job and the resultant confusion it caused saw Robbie Burns send the ball trickling into the net. It was a little untidy but ample reward for the cunning. The announcer duly announced but I am also pleased to say that he, like me struggled, with the multiple substitutes. He did an excellent job as I had lost track and for the life of me did not know who it was in the un-numbered shirt and pray he forgives me. Burns put another over the bar but a definitive through ball to Bailey saw the striker take his time for proper placement only to find that the goal keeper’s knee denied him doubling the lead and he vocalised his disappointment in language both painful and free.
I made it three times that the Baldock was caught out with this simple through ball manoeuvre but Hitchin did not exploit the move fully. Freddie Morris , a Baldock substitute put his effort over the bar in what was becoming a rare forward move for the visitors. One of the away substitutes was a replacement goalkeeper. This gentleman came on clad pretty in all pink. I let memory take me and remembered when Paul Taylor, who played I think twice for Hitchin town, was on this occasion turning out for Dunstable Town and it transpired that his green ‘keeper’s jersey clashed with the home side and the onus was on the visitors to arrange a change. There was none, but the home secretary offered a pink jersey and would that do? I approached Taylor and proffered the garment only to be asked if I wanted a fat lip and a cauliflower ear. Mr Taylor felt that the pink garment seemed to question his sexuality and thus we had a predicament only allayed by someone producing a disreputable training garment that the referee grudgingly approved after a baleful glare that obviously indicated my want of insistence.
The onrush of substitutions did not affect the pattern too much but suffice it to say that Hitchin’s supremacy was noticeable without being overwhelming. It is look like a narrow home win was on the cards when the better of the game’s two goals was scored and it was a real beauty, scored as it was, out of nothing and from range. If he tells his mum about it, I can vouch for it being worthy of recall. I always applaud the chap that has a crack at goal from a distance.
The pace of substitute Paddy Tschikala was again evident and he set up fellow sub Kieran Barnes for a chance that was blasted just wide. Another cross was aimed at Da Silva which went for a corner and I must say the Hitchin in swinging corners were a real positive feature. One caused such mayhem in the penalty area and it was only just cleared.
On a less positive note, jack Thomas, who had enjoyed a splendid game so far, brought down Kim Forsythe, who would have been away on goal and the Hitchin man received a caution. Whilst Forsythe’s brow was being mopped there was an elongated water break, which almost led to an impromptu team conference by both sides and very nearly a morale boosting huddle, for players, officials and possibly a concerned spectator or two.
From the free-kick Baldock botched a good effort as they did from a corner where the player unaccountably missed from close range. Tshikala finished a move with an angled shot of mild proportions and Smith’s in- swinging corner was cut out by the pink clad goal-keeper whose name was not on my team sheet but I think it was jack Farmer. Craig Packham was close towards the end but the goalie punched it to safety.
It was indicative of the eventual draw. Hitchin had produced more chances, were the more adventurous in attack but lacked the emphatic finish despite the opportunities. Baldock worked hard and in some ways their opportunistic goal made them worthy of the draw. One could say that it is ‘only’ a pre-season, but I have yet to meet a player who does not want to be on the winning side whatever the game or occasion.
Michael Johnson, Jack Thomas, Toby Syme, Lewis Ferrell, Daniel Webb, Lucas Kirkpatrick, Jack Green, Charlie Smith, Elliott Bailey, Robbie Burns, GOAL, 47 minutes, Trey Charles.
Substitutes used – Josh Mollinson, GK, Patrick Tshikala, Kieran McCaffery, Kieran Barnes, Craig Packham, Desejado Da Silva, Daniel Olaniran, Kyle Davison, Jon Butler. Not used – Alex Anderson and Jay Dowie.
Adam Harpur, Stephen Brooks, Josh Furness, Dean Gilbert, Liam Kenna, Alex Coppin, Owen Robertson, Lewis Barker, Harry Holland, Sean Brettle, GOAL, 72 minutes, Zach Decker, Kim Forsythe. Substitutes – Jack Farmer, Alfie Barker, Lewis Lee, Freddie Morris and Miles Lee.
Referee- D Lander assisted by G Boules and A Warburton, who had excellent games.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN