BetVictor Southern Premier Central
Hitchin Town (Cawley 3, Webb 75)
Stratford Town 0
Report by Bryan Hale
WITH Stratford Town still in search of their first away win of the season and Hitchin Town on the lookout for their first league win, something had to give at Top Field and it was the Canaries who came out on top.
Behind almost before they had time to draw breath, Town had ended the first half in reasonably promising style, but they couldn’t get into it after half-time and a second Hitchin goal with 15 minutes left took the game beyond them.
Town’s line-up showed a number of changes after the FA Cup disaster at Halesowen Town, starting with the news that Callum Ball, Lynden Dovey, Joel Gyasi, Ivor Lawton and Luis Morrison had all been released.
In came James Hancocks, recalled along with Dylan Parker from his loan spell at Rugby Town, George Heaven making his debut, Luke Rowe and another debutant in Kaire Edwards-John who, like Heaven, had been let go by Leicester City in the summer.
And with Liam Hughes serving the last of his three-game ban and Nabil Shariff the first of his, there was a starting line-up opportunity for Chris Wreh.
The Canaries side included Bradley Bell, Jhai Dillon and Ben Walster, who had been recruited during the week.
Sadly, though, for birthday boy Tommy Wright, his reshaped team got off to the worst possible start by going one down in only the third minute when Hitchin won a corner on the right.
Walster delivered the ball into the penalty area and as it was on the way across the referee spotted a push by Ross Oulton and promptly pointed to the spot.
Town keeper Elliott Taylor plunged to his right to parry Steve Cawley’s kick, but could do nothing as he reacted the quickest to blast the rebound into the net.
Town looked for an immediate response, with Edwards-John showing plenty of pace up front and going close with a couple of decent efforts.
Wreh was also looking lively and on 15 minutes he worked his way into the left of the penalty area to hit a shot which ricocheted away off the legs of keeper Charlie Horlock.
Town were beginning to string some passes together and after 25 minutes more eye-catching close control from Edwards-John almost got him clean through down the left, but Horlock was smartly off his line to smother the ball at his feet.
Soon after Kurtis Revan got into the action to float over a deep cross from the right which drifted beyond Edwards-John at the far post.
Town were also looking more assured at the back, with Heaven being perfectly positioned to head away a testing cross from the right by Bell.
And they twice came close to an equaliser shortly before the break, with a well-struck shot by Edwards-John in the 39th minute being spectacularly tipped over by Horlock followed on 44 minutes by Horlock pushing behind a low drive from Wreh.
The Canaries were first to threaten after the restart, with Bell not far away with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Another Bell run ended with a corner off Hancocks which was only held by Taylor at the second attempt and realising something different was needed, Wright replaced Revan with Parker while Oulton limped off to make way for Mitchell Glover.
A whipped-in left cross from Wreh was nearly turned in by Edwards-John followed by Parker going close from a Rowe through ball and then Horlock rushed out of his area to clear as the impressive Edwards-John tried to chase down another long ball down the middle.
But ominously for Town, the Canaries were looking increasingly comfortable and went 2-0 up with 15 minutes to go when Town were again found out by another right-wing corner.
This time Walster’s flag-kick was met by a bullet header from Hitchin skipper Dan Webb and from then the result was never in doubt.
HITCHIN: Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Ben Walster, Jay Dowie, Dan Webb, Josh Bickerstaff, Bradley Bell, Lewis Barker, Charlie Thake, Steve Cawley (Ross Hannah 71), Jhai Dillon. Unused subs: Lewis Ferrell, Max Ryan, Leon Okuboyejo, Joe Gauge.
TOWN: Elliott Taylor, Lewis Wilson, James Hancocks, Dan Vann, George Heaven, Ross Oulton (Mitchell Glover 56), Kurtis Revan (Dylan Parker 56), Luke Rowe, Chris Wreh, Joe Curtis (Abraham Eze 81), Kaire Edwards-John. Unused subs: Charley O’Keefe, Tom Fishwick.