It is always a pleasure to travel to a new stadium – and New Roker Park is just that and I do recall many a visit to the former stadium which will now be developed for housing. Stotfold now play in Division One of the Spartan League but the ground will easily pass grading should the club obtain promotion.
Team news was again very encouraging, with the return from the Antipodes of Johnny McNamara, Jack Green fit and ready to go and an initial appearance of Marcus Goldbourne. Among the substitutes was one Nikolay Rusev and I hope I have the spelling correct. Ben Walster, who was outstanding at Ampthill pulled out after the warm-up and was replaced by Lawrie Marsh.
Conditions were similar to those encountered at Ampthill on Saturday – blustery with short showers, and these conditions had an effect on the game, which broadly followed the pattern as at Ampthill, with Hitchin beginning cautiously, having the lion’s share of possession and the hosts forced into precise defending.
In the first forays, Jhai Dhillon showed a pleasing eagerness on the left flank and he and Ryan Smith both had unsuccessful shots on goal. Dhillon’s landed on the roof of the net. Dhillon and Goldbourne combined with an effort or two and the latter was proving to be agile, willing and skilful on the ball. Rio Dasilva was equally keen, seeking the telling pass. In one of these he enabled Lewis Barker to have a decent shot.
The breakthrough came after seventeen minutes, when the enterprising Dhillon set up Dasilva, whose first shot was nobly parried by the goalkeeper who was unable to prevent Dasilva’s second attempt at entering the net. Hitchin maintained the pressure and shortly after the successful strike a run from the energetic Goldbourne, he found himself hauled down on the edge of the area and a free kick from him was well saved.
A corner from Lawrie Marsh was robustly cleared, but Hitchin did not relent in their attacking attitude. The second goal had a touch of misfortune about it for the battling hosts as a hopeful shot from Alex Marsh called for a routine save from the goalkeeper, who fumbled and the ball trickled in at the far post. This was close to the half hour mark and more goals were expected from Hitchin.
Dhillon had a close range shot that he goal keeper did very well to save and a blast from Goldbourne on the run cleared the crossbar. Stotfold, who had found it difficult to get forward with serious intent did have, finally, a chance to test Horlock, and a free kick in a good position was wasted as it struck a defender. A later free kick also afforded a possibility but Horlock held.
This was the score at the interval and during the chilly wait for the resumption I recalled my last visit to the old Roker Park, in my Dunstable Town days. I had arrived in my car and was seeking a parking place when Lee Roache, the principal Dunstable striker, did what he managed so well on the pitch. He rounded me and slipped his car into my intended parking spot, announcing ‘one nil’ as he passed me. It is all about taking your opportunities.
Substitutions were made by both teams, of course and away we went, with the wind allegedly in Hitchin’s favour. The second period was not as entertaining as the first and if there were no further goals, there were some close shaves. The best of these came when Goldbourne easily outpaced his marker, shot on the run and won a corner. This was taken short and enabled Alex Marsh to have a go and his shot struck the post.
I was gently reminded of the new regulations by a very polite and tactful steward. Assisted by the swirling wind, the ball landed close to me in the stand and I routinely returned it to the nearest player, who acknowledged with a nod and on we went. It was an instinctive act that we have all performed, but the steward upbraided me as, he told me, the ball needed to be sanitised. I grovelled my apologies but noticed that in the remainder of the game, other spectators returned the ball to the field of play without admonition. Oh well.
What was delightful to see was Max Ryan’s skill and control, ell, apart from his miss-kick in a scoring position. That could be forgiven as he was energetic in his deceiving defenders and was clearly enjoying himself. Goldbourne, who really deserved a goal for his enterprising play, sent the next effort over the bar. Stotfold, at last, had a direct shot on goal from their number six, but Horlock was again equal to it.
McNamara chipped one over the bar and the home goalie cut out a close range effort from Dhillon. Ryan tried one from range , and its closeness suggested that it was worth the effort. Coldicott-Stevens tried a similar shot and that was wide, and McNamara had a header saved. Hitchin ought to have added to the score but the conditions made it all the more difficult.
So, it ended 2-0 to the Canaries and, as such it was a satisfactory performance, given the conditions. Stotfold had managed to get more of the ball in the second period but could not convert this to meaningful attempts on goal.
Hitchin’s pre-season programme continues next Tuesday (1st September), with a trip to the Eyrie, when the Canaries take on the Eagles of Bedford Town. We thank Stotfold for hosting us tonight in their fine new stadium and we wish them well in the forthcoming campaign.
Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Layne Eadie, Ryan Smith, Dan Webb, captain, Lawrie Marsh, Alex Marsh, Lewis Barker, Marcus Goldbourne, Rio Dasilva, Jhai Dhillon.
Substitutes: Josh Caldicott-Stevens, Max Ryan, Callum Stead, Johnny McNamara, Luca Cardines, Nikolay Rusev.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN