We thought the rain would spoil it, pelting down beforehand, but as players warmed up, the sun began to peek through and the rain stopped and the entertainment began and it was excellent throughout, with even the match officials grinning broadly.

This three way competition brought lots of goals and was a respectful nod to history and the spirit of 1871 came to Top Field, with guests Maidenhead United and Crystal Palace playing a full part.

We began with a tie between Hitchin Town, playing in red and white halves and Maidenhead in a deep red and black strip. The teams , as the competition name suggests, had players of different generations, with former Arsenal and Ipswich player Brian Talbot guesting for Hitchin along with his son Danny, who in his time has been a Hitchin player and was a deputy manager at Dunstable Town.

Considering the earlier downpour there was a fair attendance and it was only eight minutes in when John Sozzo gave Hitchin the lead after eight minutes. Play was at an understandably leisurely pace, but Hitchin were calling the tune, and Danny Talbot, still showing a high level of fitness doubled the lead for the Canaries after seventeen minutes.

Maidenhead did respond and hit the post with one creditable effort hit the post and Carl Williams ought to have made it 3-0 with a glorious miss, and a good shot from Maidenhead was saved. Their star player, blessed with youth and energy, Kritpak Dzimba had a shot saved on the line, but he was far from exhausting his particular contribution.

With Williams’ assistance, Danny Talbot made it 3-0 to Hitchin, something I have not written for a long time. It did not stay like that, and Maidenhead hit back with the talented but diminutive Freddie Watson, and I was not the only person to think he was a mascot. He made it 3-1 after 43 minutes and Eddie Keen made it game on five minutes later to make it 3-2.

In a spirited late attack Maidenhead made it 3-3 courtesy of Peter Neale. And that is how it ended, to make way for the Berkshire club to face the pride of South London- and I will say that they had a fair number of supporters here, chanting ‘Eag-les’, and I am old enough to remember their original nickname of the Glaziers. Among the Palace players was one Eddie McGoldrick, still heavily involved with the club, and among his former clubs are Kettering Town and indeed the mighty Arsenal.

So, after a break it was Palace and Maidenhead and another entertaining encounter. Freddie Watson almost opened the scoring but the first goal almost inevitably went to Dzimba, and even if it is a spoiler alert, this tall and talented player bagged a hat-trick in this game. Palace hit back , drawing a good save from close range before Andrew Johnson pulled one back. They then had a goal disallowed for off-side, before Dzimba completed this hat-trick, after some fine work by Maidenhead keeper Ethan Giles.

The scoring was completed when James Scowcroft made it 3-2 and skipper Mile Jedinak fired in the equaliser.
So, two games, and two scores of 3-3. All good stuff.

The third and final match saw Hitchin appear in magenta and black, as they did in 1871, whilst Palace also appears in their original 1871 sky blue and white halves, fielding a team that looked as if it meant business.

They did, dominating the game. The Hitchin management duo of Mark Burke and Adam Parker were involved as well as Tony Fontenelle, better known as ‘Yella’, who was reunited with his old pal Danny Talbot, who did as he always did, that is to play as if it was a cup final, which, in a sense it was.

To be honest, Crystal Palace dominated this throughout and ran out worthy winners of both the match and the competition and will go on to the final stages.

Palace took the lead following a corner after five minutes and Leon McKenzie was the scorer. Joni McAnuff made it 2-0 soon after and he also bagged the third goal. Danny Talbot was still contesting and ‘Yella’, falling to the ground might well have been booked for simulation in a serious game, but he was playing to the crowd.

The fourth goal was a mystery as it was credited to number 23 who did not appear on the team sheets. Apologies to whoever it was. The fifth goal to replicate history did not come and Hitchin did not score despite a free-kick just outside the penalty area.

So, as generally expected Crystal Palace took the honours, but they are to be honoured for their commitment to this competition. It was a pleasure to see players from different eras enjoying themselves and strutting their stuff. Thank you to all for your commitment and the providing of fine entertainment with a permitted tinge of nostalgia.


Darren Bonfield, Jon Bone, Gary Sisman, Brian Talbot, Liam Folds, Ian Scott, Danny Talbot, Tony Fontenelle, Josh Sozzo, Carl Williams, Rudi Hall, Brett Donnelly, John Hawkins, Robbie Burns, Lee Burns, Robbie Kean, Colin Cardines, Alfie Bonfield, Adam Parker, Mark Burke, Fergus Marie.

Ethan Giles, Dan Jones, Matt Glynn, Max Noyce, Peter Griffin, Ryan Peters, Fraser Gray, Aaron O’Brien, David Simoes, Gary McCafferty, Kritpak Dzimba, Philip Neaves, John Greetham, Gary Anderson, Paul Dadson, Sean Marks, Justin Swyer, Freddie Watson, Dave ‘Harry’ Harrison, Pete Neale, Eddie Keen.

Julian Speroni, Rob Quinn, Shaun Derry, Danny Gabbidon, Darren Ambrose, Andrew Johnson, Leon McKenzie, Gary Issott, Joni McAnuff, Mikele Leigertwood, Gary Philips, Mile Jedinak, Eddie McGoldrick, Rudi Hedman, Bobby Bowery, James, Danny Young, Mark Bright.

OFFICIALS: Paul Forrester, Jon Panconi, Mark Sage and Matt Buonassissi.