Bottom of the division Leiston secured their first win of the season at the expense of the team one place above them – Hitchin Town, the psychological aspect of which may possibly be revealed in forthcoming matches, and I mean for both teams. There are no excuses, there are no mitigating factors – the Canaries were well beaten by a team that kept it simple and embellished the game with some notable goals.
Leiston, a genteel club in a very orderly county, have struggled hitherto, and gained some confidence in a recent 4-4 draw with fellow strugglers St Ives. Hitchin virtually conceding a draw at Royston on Tuesday really needed to get this out of their system with a win. Well, I am put in mind of the last words of the Civil War General, John Sedgwick, who looked scornfully at the Confederate soldiers and said ‘They could not hit an elephant at that dist……’and then fell dead from a sharpshooter’s bullet.
I could continue the metaphor and say that the Canaries could not hit a cow’s backside with a banjo, but they did get a goal from Stephen Cawley – but it was the majestic third home goal just before half time that really did for Hitchin, whose only claim on the game is that they drew the second half – as all the goals came in the first period.
The pitch had received a bit of a dousing before the game and the ball zipped about unpredictably on the rather splendid pitch. The hosts began better, being able to retain possession and pass the ball well. An initial cross from Robert Eagle was too heavy – but they became more numerous and more accurate.
What opportunities for Hitchin attacks were really no more than half chances as the ball overran – and the first goal should have been chalked up for the hosts when Eagle sent in a low cross across the face of the goal and only needed a tap -in but the pace was just a little too much for any advancing player. This was after six minutes. Jhai Dhillon sent in a cunning pass that saw Alex Marsh attempt a shot but a corner was the result.
Jake Jessup, the home keeper, claimed that one. I am sure he was the Needham Market keeper in that debacle of a match whose score I must not mention. Well, he was a prodigy of stoutness, unyielding and so short of work in the second half he was able to exchange quips with the Hitchin supporters.
A Hitchin free-kick from Walster went right against the wall and there was no threatening follow-up save a favourable throw-in. With Leiston being the more fluid side, they took the lead after fourteen minutes. The scorer was William Davies – and it came from a free-flowing forward move that lacked meaningful challenges.
Hitchin’s response was muted – curiously so since this was a game that they badly wanted to win and never looked likely to. Dhillon’s cross came to Bell who headed it wide of the mark. It became typical of Hitchin’s wayward, inconclusive play.
It came as no surprise that the Suffolk side doubled their lead after twenty-four minutes, following a corner and a clinical header from Siju Odelusi. If I say that alarm bells were ringing for Hitchin, this became literally true towards the end of the half when church bells sounded persistently in the distance. We did not ask for whom they tolled – we knew.
But in this I am a bit ahead of myself. Hitchin did claw back a goal almost ten minutes later – and it did give temporary hope. Dhillon won a corner and Cawley’s header crept obligingly over the line. Any hope that this might lead to a majestic resurgence was short lived as a few minutes before half-time the home side scored the best goal of the game.
Joshua Hitter hit the ball beautifully on the turn and it found the top corner. I think that was the moment that suggested no real revival for Hitchin. At 2-1 there was some degree of hope, but the manner of their play never suggested they could ever get on level terms.
We were glum Hitchin lot in the board room at half-time – commenting freely on the team’s lack of real enterprise. Players we had expected to perform had seemed jaded. The bells continued ringing, bringing glum comment and upon resumption we just dared to hope.
Play from the visitors did not escape inaccuracy and there was not really what one could call a decent shot on target. There were no further goals but that, of course suited the hosts. We had noticed a poster that told us that ‘This is a Family Club, moderate your language’. Spectators appeared to, more or less, but players were audibly cursing and sometimes in sheer frustration. Happily there was only one caution in the whole game and that was for skipper Dan Webb.
The best goal chance came from a defensive error but Hitchin failed to exploit that and a further error seconds later. This led to Horlock needing to make a save from a breakaway run. It was not the last swift counter attack that had to be dealt with and I noticed that Hitchin supporters were growing restive – and even using all permitted substitutes it did not add any sparkle to the notable mundane performance.
Heading towards their first win of the season, the hosts defended with ease, their tall defenders never uncomfortable. They might have added to their score but for decent Hitchin defending, and the Suffolk side lorded it in midfield. I could not satisfactorily answer whether Leiston were playing well or were being allowed to by Hitchin’s lacklustre display – probably the former. I will say that they did not look like a side that has taken some severe wallopings so far – including a 1-8 and a 0-6 embarrassment. But it was Hitchin who were embarrassed today and we can only hope that it is a blip – since the next game is at home on Monday against league leaders Coalville Town.
Some Hitchin supporters made suggestions concerning my report and they were not flattering to the team or its management – and I can understand their disconsolate feelings after the last couple of performances that suggested a corner had been turned.
The entire party on the homeward journey kept comments to a diplomatic nicety, and I feel that the collective thought was to file this one away and move on – and just think of it – a victory or even a draw against the top club will restore the smiles and the applause if not the bells will be heard again.
Jake Jessup, Mason Sinclair, Thomas Woerndl, Siju Odelusi, GOAL 23, Harry Knights, George Keys, sponsor’s man of the match, Noel Aitkins, (Joshua Cheetham, 72), Joshua Hitter, GOAL, 42, William Davies, GOAL, 14, Robert Eagle, captain, (Rhys Henry,45), Louie Bloom, (Hamilton Bunga, 85).Substitutes not used – Luri Fernandes, Charlie Beckwith GK.
Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Ben Walster, Jay Dowie, (James Verney, 80), Daniel Webb, captain, cautioned, Lewis Ferrell, Lewis Barker, (Lewis Rolfe, 67), Jhai Dhillon,(Leon Okuboyejo,73), Stephen Cawley, GOAL,32) Alex Marsh, Bradley Bell. Substitutes not used – Joseph Gauge, Max Ryan.
REFEREE: Mr Karl Sear, assisted by Mr Paul Stearman and Mr Lewis Venables. All had good games.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN