This second pre-season game did not have the goals or the entertainment of the Luton Town game, but it was obviously of great benefit to both managers who used all but one or two of the named substitutes. When I received my team sheet I was told that there were four players from the same family. On scrutiny I found that these were listed as Triallist One through to Triallist Four. Fair enough if a little disappointing for those of enforced anonymity.
There is no doubt that the World Cup Semi-final was responsible for the meagre turnout at Top Field of just 100 who reserved their biggest cheers of the night for our youthful announcer who had to inform with a little guess work since one or two players had no numbers on their shirts and the second half brought the usual crop of multi substitutions that added to the confusion. This, of course, is typical of pre-season and I was surprised that there were no agreed refreshment breaks on this warm evening.
Boreham Wood, of the Conference, National, came within a whisker of becoming a Football League club at the end of last season and within a few minutes of the game showed themselves to be a strong, physical side, who despite their domination of possession squeezed home by a solitary goal – and that was a first half penalty, conceded by Jon Butler and converted with the emphasis of Harry Kane by the impressive Morgan Ferrier.
In the initial stages Hitchin found it a trifle difficult to gain and maintain possession and there were some delicate combinational moves from the visitors – one involving Femi Ilesanmi, Keiran Murtagh and Morgan Ferrier who had the anti-climax of an ‘air header’. Josh Mollison, in the Hitchin goal was kept busy and on his toes – bur there was co-ordinated defence by the Canaries as The Wood probed. I did like the little bit of showboating from Hitchin’s Kyran Wiltshire who did a nice bit of ‘keepy uppy’ before he released ( rather than unleashed) a shot on the volley that Triallist One held with a slight suggestion of indignation and an unspoken thought of ‘Who do you think you are -Mbappe?
Ferrier had a nice run in possession but he sent his shot over the bar. Murtagh’s on – target free-kick was held by Mollison and it soon became clear that this game was a very useful work out for the home defence and they did very well indeed. The Conference side however, were showing their strength – yet their intricate play had yet to yield a goal until the undisputed penalty.
Home supporters would normally contest such a decision, but in these preparatory games they tend to be quite gentle and euphemistic – if the referee were criticised the most you could expect was ‘The referee’s a Love Child.’ There was sporadic applause from the visiting supporters,( not that many) and I thought that you could not see the Wood for the trees behind the goal. They were affable and relaxed and hade more fun in cheering the announcer as he tried to identify who came on for whom and I must say he kept up with it a lot better than I did.
Hand on heart I might suggest that this was not a particularly exciting half – but there was a good deal of skill in evidence in passing moves but the finishing could have been improved upon. Hitchin had limited chances on goal but they worked very hard and they did not relent in a somewhat unexceptional second-half. They had restricted the senior team to a solitary goal, which was indeed laudable.
I had a surreptitious peek at the France v Belgium game on my phone and here I cannot withhold my chortle on what for me was the best commentary moment of the current World Cup. Argentina were playing Iceland and they were awarded a penalty. The camera picked out Maradona, smoking a cigar and after this view of the portly cheat, the camera returned to the action and the wonderful save. ‘We have just seen the Hand of God’, said the commentator, ‘we might just have seen the Hand of Cod.’ My pinks are still tickled over that that impromptu gem. It is just a tad more imaginative than those fellows who wind down their windows at traffic lights to tell me and anyone else that ‘It’s comin’ ‘ome.’
Meanwhile, back at Top Field and the pristine pitch, well-watered before kick-off, we prepared for the second half and the general introduction of the mass substitutions. I thought that if I stood by the benches I might get a last ten minutes or so. The substitutions, of course affected the rhythm of the game, such as it was but we must concede the necessity of viewing the possible as well as the probables.
The game became a lot more even and competitive. We had seen Ilesanmi have a narrow miss at what is known as the back stick and Ferrier test Mollison with a fine shot that brought a confident save. Murtagh further tested Mollison with a low shot and there was the golden chance for Trey Charles, who got ahead of the Wood defence with a Michael King assist but the former fluffed his lines when he might well have bagged the equaliser that might have brought extra life to this somewhat sedate game.
The well organised Wood defence snuffed out chances but they were not seemingly inclined to add-their front men to add to their lead. There were some probing crosses from the right from the visitors but the target man seemed absent.
I liked the eagerness of the Canaries who may have probed without the reward of a goal and as such the result reflected – though not overwhelmingly, the general superiority of the visiting senior squad.
HITCHIN TOWN ( full squad)
Josh Mollinson, Toby Syme, Daniel Olaniran, Lewis Ferrell, Jon Butler, Kyran Wiltshire, Trey Charles, Kieran McCaffey, Ezra Forde, Michael King, Patrick Tshikala, Daniel Webb, captain, Michael Johnson, Josh Bickerstaff, Matthew spring, Robbie Burns, Charlie Smith, Jack Green, Elliott Bailey, Kieran Barnes, Kyle Davison, Desejado Da silva, Jay dowie, Connor Clarke.
BOREHAM WOOD (full squad)
Triallist One, Ricky Shakes, Femi Ilesanmi, Mark Ricketts, captain, Jamal Fyfield, Dave Stephens, Angelo Balenta, Tom Champion, Morgan Ferrier, PENALTY GOAL, 26 MINUTES, Keiran Murtagh, Bradley Ash, Shaun Jeffers, sorba Thomas, Manny Parry, Danny Woodards, Connor Smith, Triallist Two, Triallist Three, Triallist Four.
Referee, Simon Bates assisted by M Ball and L Hantea.