Hitchin Town 1 Watford U23 1


Friendly 2023-24

Top Field68 Fishponds Rd, Hitchin SG5 1NU, UK

Hitchin Town
Watford U23
1 - 1
Final Score


This recently arranged fixture was embraced with goodwill by Hitchin and I suspect that the players will prefer a game than simply have a training session. This would mean, we knew facing ‘academy football’, the one touch, play out from the back, keep possession, even at the expense of boredom for spectators, break the press, and so forth. Like it or loathe it, we see it all the time. I am not alone in my opinion that in the recent Newport County match against Manchester United, the game livened up when the illustrious Red Devils played more like their opponents. It was indeed more entertaining.

Well, having said that, the game was a lot better than that might have suggested, and it was an open entertaining game without the ponderous style of play prevalent today at all levels. My expectations were thus totally erroneous on this occasion, and I am pleased to be proved wrong.

It was an interesting team selection with the inclusion of debutants, that is the loan players from Luton Town, namely Oli Lynch and Jack Bateson. Ciaren Jones was back from injury at last. Rain had also returned but the pitch looked very playable and away we went with our earlier kick off and the game was no sellout given the weather conditions.

It was a relatively quiet start with no fancy stuff from either side and after eleven minutes the only attempt on goal was an unintentional back header from a Watford defender. Freeman’s well-intentioned pass to Lynch went astray.

Idiakhoa was brought down just outside the area and his off- target free kick was disappointing. So far, the fledgling professionals of the visitors had not threatened the Hitchin goal. A question was posed when Wilkinson was replaced after little more than a quarter of an hour by Blennerhassett, and we presume it was for an injury.

Then, minutes later the great Ciaren Jones comeback was brought to an abrupt halt when he was replaced another debutant, Alex Kpapke. Then Watford took the lead, after twenty- four minutes with Laken Torres the scorer. We, at the other end had initially thought it had gone wide, and we heard the thump against the advertising hoarding. Maybe it was a playful follow-up.

Then Snelus after cunningly robbing a player of possession had a clear, close range shot on goal that was adeptly saved by the visiting keeper Aldie Marriott.

There is no doubt that Jack ought to have scored and he buried his head in his hands in acknowledgment.

But, with thirty-five minutes gone, Hitchin were still probing and playing positive and direct attacking football. From a corner Snelus tried an overhead kick and we may forgive him for not completing the manoeuvre in a desired style for both him and the team. ‘Still falls the rain’ I quoted to myself as Watford countered with a failed goal attempt. They pressed again to little effect, but Hitchin’s clearances were poorly judged.

There was an ultimately amusing moment when Stephen Gleeson went to take a corner and for the first time, I saw a referee insist that the ball be placed within or just on the very edge of the quadrant. Gleeson eventually complied but said to the referee that ‘as it was a friendly, I thought I would get away with it.’

After half time we saw the return of stalwarts Layne Eadie and Bradley Bell. Kavan Cotter also made an appearance. Hitchin did get the ball in the net, but after the referee had blown for an infringement, but it was a Hitchin free kick, woefully over hit. Referee Mr Walford speaking tome in the boardroom afterwards made an immediate apology and said that goal ought to have stood since it had made clear to him that the ball was kept in play, thus validating subsequent action. It was an honest and unusual admission and much appreciated. I wonder if we would have been so unruffled if the match had been a vital league or cup game. Probably not.

Two good efforts followed for the visitors who also defended well with good counter play, swift in execution. The there came a second goal, hooked in nicely from a cross and it was a Hitchin goal scored by Josh Popoola at about sixty – five minutes. I would say this was richly deserved given the rapid improvement in play and attitude.

The rain became more heavily persistent, making it more difficult for precise play. This made a period of necessary defending a little tricky for Hitchin, but they held sway, even with three corners sprayed in. Lynch and Bateson had impressed as I suppose we should expect potential professionals to do.

With about ten minutes to go, chances were more or less equal except that Hitchin conceded so many corners which called for careful defending. Horlock had one more routine save to make from one of the numerous and unnamed Watford substitutes. Hitchin had a late corner and although the effort hit the post there was a flag for offside.

We entered stoppage time with a meaningful Watford attack, but that was the last action of the game, an entertaining one at that. The spectators who braved it deserve our thanks since it rained throughout and continued well after the game.

So, the losing run came to an end and that was welcome, and we used a good sixteen players in the course of this entertaining friendly.

Saturday sees the return fixture with Stratford Town the visitors. It is an odd fact that for three seasons we have defeated the Warwickshire side away and yet struggled against them at home, let’s us hope we can do something about that.

Charlie Horlock, captain, Josh Popoola, Goal, 62 minutes, John Freeman, Stan Georgiou, Jack Bateson, Ciaren Jones, Jack Snelus, Stephen Gleeson, Dan Idiakhoa, Oli Lynch, Finley Wilkinson. Substitutes used- Bradley Bell, Layne Eadie, Alex Kpapke, Isaac Galliford, Kavan Cotter, Tommy Blennerhassett. Not used – Toby Syme.

Aldie Marriott, Albert Eames, Freddie Buers, Luigi Gaspar, James Claridge, Aiden Coyne, Michael Adu-Poku, Charlie Davis, Laken Torres,Goal 24 minutes, Zak Fraser- Grante, Zac Massiah-Edwards.

There were a number of substitutes, most of whom played but no names were provided on the team sheet.

Referee – Mr Riki Walford, assisted by Mr Dan Smith and Mr Billy Houghton.

Attendance 126,



Competition Season
Friendly 2023-24