After a 157 day break without playing a match, Hitchin Town made their return with an emphatic pre-season victory over local side Letchworth Garden City Eagles on Thursday evening. As Mark Burke had pointed out in his pre-season interview prior to the game, this was seen as more of a training exercise for the squad than any meaningful fixture – nevertheless, Canaries fans can be encouraged by how sharp the side looked from kick-off of 2020-21’s first friendly.
Burke went along with his pre-match plan of playing two entirely different sides in the first half and second half, with the opening 45 minutes seeing the more recognisable XI. Hitchin Town had a few chances before opening the scoring in the 13th minute, with Steve Cawley slotting past the goalkeeper following a defensive mix-up. Just six minutes later, Cawley turned provider as he capitalised on some indecision from the LGC goalkeeper before sending in a cross to Luke Brown to tap the ball in to the net. Brown was playing in yellow and green for the first time following a move back from the United States, where he represented the University of Maryland.
Rio Da Silva got a goal that his busy performance deserved to make it 3-0, slotting in first-time from just inside the box following some great interchange between four different HTFC forwards, before Steve Cawley grabbed a second goal to make it four. The first half scoring was completed by Alex Marsh, with arguably the goal of the night – the right-winger picked up a clever flick from Luke Brown before arrowing a strike in to the top corner to make it 5-0 going in to the break.
The second-half side took a bit more time to get in to the flow of the game, which is understandable considering they’d never played together before. Josh Coldicott-Stephens and Lewis Barker marshalled the midfield well, but it was the Eagles who grabbed the next goal. They were awarded a penalty following a harsh handball decision against central defender John Sonuga, and their number 11 duled slotted the ball past Josh Mollison from the spot.
This seemed to wake Hitchin Town up, and the Canaries began to apply more pressure on the Letchworth goal. The rapid Zidane Gourgel Sequeira slammed home the sixth goal from range, before former Stevenage youngster Marcus Gouldbourne won a penalty thanks to some tricky feet in the box, before scoring the spot-kick himself. The scoring was completed with an unfortunate own goal and by this time the heavens had began to open up, with claps of thunder booming nearby – thankfully not too long before the final whistle.
With the quality of finishing on display and five Pro Direct Academy players appearing for Hitchin Town on the night, in addition to some younger new faces from elsewhere, it was an extremely encouraging night for the Canaries. Special mention goes to second-half right back Luca Cardines, who made his debut first-team appearance aged just 16 and had a great match.
On to Leverstock Green, next Tuesday evening!
HITCHIN TOWN FIRST HALF
Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Ben Walster, Dan Webb, Hayden Evanson, Alex Marsh, Rio Da Silva, Ryan Smith, Kye Tearle, Steve Cawley, Luke Brown.
HITCHIN TOWN SECOND HALF
Josh Mollison, Max Ryan, Kade Stephens-Abbey, John Sonuga, Marlow Gough, Michael Gyasi, Zidane Gourgel Sequeira, Josh Coldicott-Stephens, Lewis Barker, Henry Snee, Marcus Gouldbourne, Luca Cardines, Jordan Webber.
MATCH REPORT BY MATT FURNISS