The Citizens gave the Canaries a right good hiding in this League Cup fixture, repeating the score at Alvechurch recently – but with a very different starting eleven. We expected a changed team after the toil and drama of the FA Cup victory at Wisbech, but it was very clear that the Hitchin managerial team decided to play an experimental team that contained two new signings, Layne Eadie and Lusaed Kastrati.
Josh Bickerstaff’s attempt on goal in the second half was Hitchin’s first meaningful effort in what was a rather dismal performance by a team that lacked cohesion and may well have lost by six goals had one effort by the Clarets not struck the post.
This competition never seems to get any kind of priority and Hitchin are just one club of many who use the occasion to give fringe players a run-out. I presume The citizens were at full strength – if not they do have quality in depth and Callum Stead exhibited enviable skill and quality as he tormented the ragged Hitchin defence.
If this competition does not excite after the FA cup encounter, it is still a competitive match and I feel the Canaries ought to have put in a better shift than they did. But it was apparent that players were unfamiliar with their colleagues and there was little shape and a distinct lack of eagerness, which could not be applied to the hosts who had an exuberant romp in their first match since a notable away win at Halesowen Town.
It did not take long for this lower ranked team to establish superiority on the night and I feel they would have given the full Hitchin first team a bit of a scare. The home lead was clinically established after just seven minutes when Toby Cleaver converted and on twenty-four minutes former Dunstable Town player David Keenleyside snatched the second.
Play from Hitchin bore no resemblance to that gritty display at Wisbech and defensive frailties were again exposed when in another punishing attack Bickerstaff was unhappily credited with an own goal. When the merciful whistle for the interval was blown, Hitchin supporters were glorying in understatement insofar as they had seen better displays. Some behind the goal the Canaries were attacking complained that the action was mostly at the other end.
I reflected on my last visit to Herns Lane, when Dunstable Town notched up their biggest ever League victory defeating Welwyn Garden City 12-0, and needless to say the Citizens have come a long way forward since that particular game and have respectable Southern League Status and a ground, although relatively modest, has undergone notable improvements to the infrastructure.
The second half was, for Hitchin supporters, as painful as the first, and it must be said that the visitors did not look like scoring – yet did manage one or two decent efforts, one bringing a fine save from the tall goal keeper, Ryan Schmid, who probably had one of his least testing times between the sticks.
It was mildly surprising that Hitchin only conceded two further goals, scored by Callum Stead and Romelle Alomenu, and, as I mentioned earlier they also hit the post and there was other occasion where Horlock was caught off his line but the home player who cannily fired from range missed the target and perhaps should not have done. But a win by five clear goals represents a satisfying night’s work from an impressive team who are third in their division.
I had an unusual difficulty in trying to obtain a team sheet and was given a list of squad names at the turnstile – so I had to make do and I apologise for any errors. There was no public address system in operation where I could check substitutes so I will publish my hasty reconstruction.
There is no doubt that the Hitchin team of tonight will bear only partial resemblance to the one that will take to the field at Banbury United on Saturday and it is a great shame that the team wearing the colours in this match could not have made the game a little less one-sided.
We wish the Citizens all the very best in the next round and indeed hope they have a successful season in Southern League Central, where they are sure to improve on their position last season of fourteenth in the table.
WELWYN GARDEN CITY
Ryan Schmid, Jake Bradshaw, Jonathan Seaton, Jess Walklin, Will McLelland, Lee Close, Callum Stead, GOAL, 60, George Ironton, Toby Cleaver, GOAL, 7, David Keenleyside, captain, GOAL, 28, Romelle Alomenu, GOAL,
Substitutes used – Eusebio Da Silva – GOAL, 71, Brodie Carrington and Dylan Ebengo.
Not used – Gerado Smalldone, Connor Sansom.
Charlie Horlock, Max Ryan, Layne Eadie, Jay Dowie, (James Verney), Lusaed Kastrati, (Joe Gauge), Marcus Crowther, (Lewis Ferrell), Lewis Barker, Jack Green, Dan Webb, Leon Okuboyejo, Josh Bickerstaff, captain, OWN GOAL, 45+1.
Substitutes not used – Josh Mollison GK, Brett Donnelly.
REFEREE: Mr Hugh Gilroy, assisted by Mr Conor Griffin and Mr Sebastian Frazer.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN