The first defeat in twelve games came to an end, not with a bang but a whimper, in what was a lacklustre match in a somnolent atmosphere. After the Hitchin heroics at Leatherhead midweek, we moved from the FA cup to the FA Trophy, but albeit with an altered team, with manager Mark Burke understandably resting certain players and thereby allowing others a chance to impress.
Jordy Mongoy made his debut and Patrick Tshikala made a start along with Josh Mollison and Macsen Fraser returned to the colours following his injury. It was a cold and dismal day, and many who cheered the team on in the home game against Leatherhead were notable in their absence. Hayes and Yeading, a lower league team belied their status and were deserving of their victory from a solitary goal, scored in the second half.
Unusually, from the actual kick-off, Hayes lofted the ball directly towards the goal. Mollison gathered bemusedly, but I concede that it is worth a try since a goalie might still be hanging his towel above his water bottle and not expecting an immediate shot. From the long clearance Jordy Mongoy provided Trey Charles with the chance of a run, quickly snuffed out by a Hayes defence that rarely put a foot wrong in the whole match.
Soon to make his presence felt was the Hayes playmaker, Scott Bridges ( this reporter’s man of the match). His creativity and spatial awareness injected his team with distinct possibilities, ably assisted by Scott Donnelly. A move instigated by Bridges and assisted by Toby Little and the versatile Hassan Jalloh unintentionally allowed Josh Mollison to make his first save of the afternoon. Mollison was there again to snuff out a Hayes free-kick.
But it was, overall a somewhat tentative start by both teams. A speculative lob from Trey Charles was smartly cleared as was the following effort from Charles and Tshikala. A Hitchin corner saw Scott Belgrove blast the ball over the bar and a later corner was gathered by ex-Dunstable Town goalkeeper, Jack Smith. Bridges was soon at it again, combining with Toby Little, but this time to no good effect. After a blocked effort from Josh Bickerstaff there was a forward run from Little whose shot took a deflection from a corner. After a somewhat routine clearance, Hayes won a free- kick, centrally well outside the area, and from this Bridges fired one in that went wide as did a following attempt from EdAsufu-Afjaye. I thought the pace was rather slow, then it picked up immediately with a combination involving Jalloh, Tom Jelley and Bridges, who put in the cross – knocked out to allow Bridges another go, which he ballooned over the bar.
Curiously, the closest we go to a goal was through accidental means. Following a Hitchin corner from Charlie Smith, a probably unintentional header from Hayes towards his own goal was severe enough for Jalloh to head off his line to save the embarrassment of a comical own goal. A Spring free-kick from about thirty yards was parried but Smith was able to follow up, with his attempt going wide. Little tested Mollison with a large shot, held by the keeper. Bridges marshalled the midfield in an impressive manner; Little had an ambitious run halted legitimately and a Hitchin corner saw the ball gathered smartly by Jack Smith.
If Hayes had prevented an embarrassing own goal they almost took the lead in another accidental moment. Little had shaped himself for a shot on goal and in flight it struck Lee Barney and almost shaved the post – thus almost an accidental goal. It was a bright moment in an undeniably dull first half, where spectator involvement was more perfunctory than enthusiastic. Hayes and Yeading had seen more of the ball and were the more creative. Hitchin looked jaded – perhaps the accumulation of an historic week for the club – live television from the BBC in the club house, the triumph at Leatherhead, and news of the next FA cup game to broadcast highlights. No doubt the game at Fetcham Grove had players calling on their reserves of energy, but these forty-five minutes were largely forgettable. The visitors looked the better team and they had provided the greater opportunities, yet had not penetrated Mollison’s goal.
Having said that, there was one memorable moment which almost brought the opening goal when Lee Barney shot low and hard, the ball striking the post and Mollison putting it out for a corner. This was the closest we came – not excepting the line clearance and the unintentional deflection.
Spectators today were rather quiet – almost as if they were still recovering from their exhortations at Fetcham Grove – the game that went to extra time, as did the one at against Didcot. I was not the only one who wondered if Hitchin’s tendency to draw cup games at the first attempt would be repeated and the fixture congestion added to with a replay on Tuesday, with the home game against King’s Lynn Town needing rearranging yet again. As it turned out it did need rearrangement as the Norfolk side drew away to Buxton, so we all have a Wednesday night off in any case.
If the visitors had been the better side in the first half, they repeated this in the second half and went on to score the only goal of the game. Hitchin resumed quite well, with a shot from Macsen Fraser, assisted by Mongoy. Not long into the half we all thought that a smart move involving Charles and Belgrove had lightened the task with an opening goal. This came from an energetic move along the right flank, with Trey Charles sending a decent cross to Scott Belgrove who netted smartly to a cheer and the linesman’s flag for off-side. It was ironic that the most pulsating move resulted in a transgression – and it was not repeated for the remainder of the match.
From this Hayes won corners and free-kicks in equal measures and a good chance fell for Jalloh and another for Little. Thake had a run on goal but was neatly dispossessed and Barney put in a headed effort that was saved. Then, on fifty-eight minutes came the game’s only goal, but it was a good one at that. The influential and indefatigable Bridges sent in an inviting cross that Barney met well, sending in a looped header beyond the reach of Mollison. There could be no real complaints since it was with the general flow of play and Barney had come very close in the first half, when his shot had struck the post.
Hitchin’s response was muted at forest and this allowed two fine shots on goal, first from Bridges and then from Little – both well saved. Then Bridges won a free-kick and Little’s shot was also held. Hitchin had employed substitutes in an effort to turn it all around, using Thake and Webb but it made little difference, as Hayes seemed to sense that the game was already won and that they just had to see it out.
This they did and in some ways the final whistle was a merciful release as, putting it charitably this performance was not vintage Hitchin. I do not subscribe to the view that ‘Hayes wanted it more’ since it is not feasible that players go into a match with an uncaring attitude. It is human nature to want to win. In a post-match interview, Mark Burke told me that even if he had played his strongest team, the result would probably have been the same. He pointed out that some players needed to rest after their exertions, and the time was right to extend opportunities to players who have not been appearing with any regularity. He smiled when I said that at the very least it would ease the fixture congestion.
‘Yes’ he said, ‘ A replay next week would be asking a lot of the squad who have been involved in a lot of extra-time after replays’ and we were to remember what a drain it is upon their energetic resources. He also praised the opposition saying that in his view they could play a league higher and be entirely comfortable. ‘They were a good team and they showed it today.’ We both agreed that the somnolent atmosphere of today acted a little like an anti-climax, as well as it being cold and miserable. He praised the efforts of Josh Mollison. He felt Charlie Smith could have scored after Mongoy’s cross on eighty-three minutes, which was cleared off the line, and (predictably), he felt that Belgrove was not off-side for his disallowed goal.
He also praised Hayes and pointed out their players had played at this level and above and were in no way a nominally junior side. The most positive thing was that, with the Lynn game off there is adequate time to prepare for the away League game at Tamworth next Saturday. We may still be ‘romantically’ involved with the FA cup, but we do need to ‘concentrate on the League’ to rise well above our position of second bottom. Yes, there are games in hand against rivals in this nether section but they must be ones where points are put on the board.
Hayes and Yeading deserve full credit for their performance today. Their game plan worked well, they kept a clean sheet and were consistently creative. We wish them well in the next stages of the competition and in their league programme.
Josh Mollison, Macsen Fraser, Noah Chesmain, (Sponsors, HTFC Man of the Match), Matt Spring, Lewis Ferrell, Josh Bickerstaff, captain, Trey Charles, Charlie Smith, Jordy Mongoy, Scott Belgrove, (Charlie Thake),Patrick Tshikala, (Dan Webb).
Substitutes not used – Alex Anderson, Jack Green and Michael King.
HAYES AND YEADFING UNITED
Jack Smith, Tom Jelley, Toby Little, (Josh Chamberlain), Priestley Farquarson, Liam McDevitt, Ed Asafu-Adjaye, Scott Donnelly, captain, Scott Bridges, this reporter’s Man of the Match, Lee Barney, GOAL, 58 MINUTES, (Duncan Culley), Hassan Jalloh, Roddy Collins, cautioned.
Substitutes not used – Keano Robinson, Ola Olajubu and Great Evans.
REFEREE: Mr J Aldous, who had a good game, well assisted by Mr L Hantea and Mr J Scott.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN