In what turned out to be an entertaining game, Hitchin were ten minutes away from a creditable draw but succumbed to late counterpunch that was a masterpiece of opportunism. Charlie Thake had scored the goal of the game to snatch an equaliser to make it 2-2, but the Conference South visitors always looked as if they had more goals in them and indeed hit the frame of the goal no fewer than three times in the match. Goalkeeper Charlie Horlock again put in a display that suggests he is a most suitable replacement to Michael Johnson, now of Braintree, and who was at the match today – being quick to praise the quality of his replacement.
One notable feature was the inspirational play of Jay Dowie who remained a commanding presence throughout the action. Wealdstone, in all blue, began in earnest and an immediate attack saw their first chance hit the side netting. They came again on the left flank, drawing a comfortable save from Horlock. Dennon Lewis tried a cross that was over hit and at the other end a cross from Dowie was robustly cleared. Another cross by Lewis went for a corner and this itself brought another and it seemed inevitable that the visitors would soon score. They did and from a free kick on the right hand side which was headed home smartly by Ross Lafayette.
A minute later Hitchin drew level. This was a headed own goal by Nick Arnold who turned away from his howler with a look that suggested his team were jolly sporting fellows in granting such a goal. A fine shot from Connor Smith was well saved and Dennon smith presented another chance for Smith, which Horlock held, which he repeated when Ryan Sellars had a pop soon after. Lewis looked as if he had restored the visitors lead but the foot of the post got in the way.
Wealdstone did not ease up and further shots and corners ensued with Dowie defending splendidly from one cross and Horlock cut out a dangerous cross from Lewis. Lafayette, elegant on the ball, looked set for his second, when he had controlled a cross in masterful fashion to turn and shoot again but was denied by the foot of the post. Given these fortuitous moments, it was still a battling display by Hitchin who were pleased to get to the interval on level terms.
What the home spectators wanted to see was a goal for the hosts scored by one of their number and this was worth waiting for. But before then we were to witness a third headed goal – and it fell to the opposition. Before then it looked likely that after Lafayette’s assistance Dennon Lewis would notch a comfortable goal – since he had plenty of time to choose his spot, but he blasted wastefully over the cross bar. From a Wealdstone corner Horlock tipped over the bar and then held the next cross. Thake tried a combination with Crowther but the latter was dispossessed before he could do damage. Lafayette had a blocked shot and then Anderson scooped one off the line all of which confirmed the home defence were under as much pressure as they were against Stevenage – but I feel it did them all a power of good.
The next goal came from a corner and again it showed a familiar vulnerability to set pieces and Lafayette restored the lead with a powerful header. This was ten minutes into the second half and such was the comfort on the ball from the visitors we thought more away strikes would inevitably follow. But Hitchin met pressure with good resistance and looked good following long clearances.
Substitute Scott Belgrove was given more than one to link up with and he did so very well in a move that led to the fine equaliser. The striker pursued the long clearance, secured possession and had evaded the off-side. He strode towards the goal and under challenge he slipped the ball to the advancing Thake who shot powerfully and scored the first goal of the game that came from a boot rather than a head. It was a real peach of a goal if a little against the flow of play.
Lafayette and Smith combined in a fine move that necessitated a clearance off the line, adding to the fortuitous moments in this game that was lost following a majestic moment of counterpunch, ten minutes from time. Before this winning goal, substitute Kieran Barnes had forced a corner for Hitchin and Belgrove’s shot was dealt with comfortably by Theo Richardson. The goalkeeper’s clearance provided an immediate opportunity and Eric Lopez obliged. There was some confusion as I attributed the goal to Sanchez Wyatt but they had swapped numbers. Even our announcer said the goal was scored ‘by number sixteen or seventeen’.
So – that was the last goal of the game but there were further chances before the final whistle – mostly for the visitors, who again hit the frame of the goal with three minutes to go. There were, of course, multi-substitutions in the second half which I failed to keep up with, and this was complicated by a short or two not bearing numbers. This is all standard for pre-season games so I hope you will forgive my lack of detail in this respect.
There was only a moderate attendance, but the game was enjoyable and constantly competitive. The two games may have brought defeats but I do believe it has been a thorough testing against senior opposition.
Charlie Horlock, Alex Anderson, Marcus Crowther, Charlie Hayford, Joe Gauge, Lewis Ferrell, captain, Leon Okuboyejo, Jay Dowie, Charlie Thake, GOAL, 64 MINUTES, Devm Simms, James Verney. Substitutes used – all second half – Scott Belgrove, Jack Thomas, Kieran Barnes, Lukas Didik, Taishen Griffiths and Charlie O’Keefe. Not used: Juma Omar ad Brett Donnelly.
Theo Richardson, Nick Arnold, OWN GOAL, 11 MINUTES, Ryan Sellars, Billy Clifford, Yaw Offuso, Jerome Okimo, captain, Reece Beckles-Roberts, Connor Smith, Ross Lafayette, TWO GOALS – 10 AND 55 MINUTES, Danny Green, Dennon Lewis. Substitues used – Jacob Cook, Dylan Switters, Sanchez Wyatt and Eric Lopez, GOAL, 80 MINUTES. Not used – Dylan Patterson.
REFEREE: Mr R Jones, assisted by Mr S Brewer and Mr C Geelan.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN