AFC DUNSTABLE – In the first 30 minutes we totally dominated the play and created a number of chances against a very experienced AFC Dunstable side. Unfortunately we lacked that clinical finishing and after a prolonged water break AFC had a chance to regroup and we lost some of our momentum. We began to take too many touches on the ball which meant we did not play at the right tempo as we had done at the beginning of the game. This allowed AFC back in the game and after I made some changes for the second half to take a look at different scenarios we got caught cold to concede an early goal. The changes also disrupted our play but with the very high temperatures changes were necessary.

Pre- season games are used as a tool for me to give the whole squad playing minutes towards match fitness; to experiment with players in different positions and to provide trialists the opportunity to impress. This combination inevitably means that results could suffer. But on the whole I have been impressed with our pre-season and in spells we have played some excellent football. I am hopeful that we can become more clinical in front of goal starting on Saturday.

BISHOPS STORTFORD – I thought we started very well and looked dangerous with plenty of possession but did not convert the chances created. In the first half I was very pleased with our defending and Michael Johnson had no saves to make.

In the second half Bishops Stortford came in to the game after I made some changes which altered our shape. Despite this Elliot Bailey had two good chances well saved by the keeper as we continued to look dangerous. I did not clearly see their penalty but the players told me they felt it was a harsh decision. But credit to MJ for yet another penalty save that kept us in the game.

It was a magnificent run by Macsen Fraser that drew the foul which led to the penalty which Lucas Kirkpatrick despatched with confidence. The game opened up as Stortford chased the game and there were chances at both ends. Again I was pleased with our defending and another clean sheet was a bonus. It was also another victory and we progressed to the semi-final of the Herts charity Cup.

KETTERING TOWN – Kettering had a tremendous 2017-18 season reaching the play-off semi-finals and I believe they are one of the favourites for at least a play-off place this time around as well. Apart from our last meeting the matches between Hitchin and Kettering have been very tight affairs and this is not likely to be any different. I would hope that we can return to our competitive selves and entertain the fans as well as trying to achieve a positive result from the match.

NEEDHAM MARKET – We make the awkward midweek journey to Needham Market and face a team that we know very little about. To this end we are sending our chief scout Ian Stratford to Bedworth on Saturday to watch Needham Market. Visiting new grounds and pitting your wits against different managers helps to freshen up your enthusiasm for the game and I am really looking forward to the next ten months.

Mark Burke