BetVictor Southern Premier Central
Stratford Town 3 (Vann 2, Roberts 45, Howards 73
Hitchin Town 3 (Cawley 57, Hutchinson 66 90+2)
Report by Craig Gibbons
JACOB HUTCHINSON’S stoppage-time strike rescued a point for Hitchin Town, who twice had to come from behind on Tuesday night to deny Stratford Town their first home win since November.
Town took just 90 seconds to break the deadlock at the Arden Garages Stadium, with Dan Vann powerfully heading home from Kynan Isaac’s corner to give his side the perfect start.
Hitchin eventually settled and had chances to restore parity, but they were hit with the sucker-punch right on half-time when a swift counter-attack led by Isaac resulted in Javia Roberts smashing home from six yards out.
As they say in football, 2-0 is the most dangerous lead of them all and it took just 19 second-half minutes for the visitors to get back on level terms.
Steve Cawley made the most of a goalmouth scramble to pull a goal back in the 57th minute before Hutchinson confidently slotted the ball through the legs of James Pardington nine minutes later to make it 2-2.
But out of nothing, Town managed to nose themselves back in front in the 73rd minute when substitute Leam Howards marked his introduction with a fine goal, holding off two challenges to sprint clear and smash home from just inside the area.
However, the drama was far from over and after a prolonged period of Hitchin pressure, the visitors managed to rescue a point in the second minute of stoppage time.
Walster’s free-kick from the edge of the area hit the inside of the post and bounced kindly into the path of Hutchinson, who had the time to take two touches before firing into the far corner to deny Town their first home win since 19th November.
Town’s starting line-up showed one change to the team which narrowly lost 1-0 to Kings Langley on Saturday, with Gedeon Okito coming in for Kai Woollard-Innocent, who has returned to Queens Park Rangers following a short loan spell at the Arden Garages Stadium.
There were also changes on the bench, with new signings Rob Thompson-Brown and David Pitt named among the substitutes.
Straight from the off Town were on the attack and while Kynan Isaac saw his right-footed shot inside the first minute tipped behind by Charles Horlock, it wasn’t long after that when the hosts took the lead.
Another attack led to a corner on the left-hand side, with Isaac’s pin-point delivery powerfully headed home by Vann to bag his first goal for the club.
Having won three of their last five games, the Canaries went in search of an immediate equaliser, with Hutchinson seeing his shot from 20 yards out deflect behind before Town keeper Pardington did well to hold a teasing cross from the left-hand side.
While the hosts were enjoying plenty of possession and creating chances, Hitchin looked dangerous on the counter and in the 17th minute Hutchinson managed to get in behind Town’s defence before a last-ditch tackle from Dan Alessi prevented the Canaries No.10 from restoring parity.
Four minutes later another crucial block, this time from Vann, stopped Jack Green from levelling things up and from the resulting corner, Town had a huge let off when Cawley lashed against the inside of the post from six yards out.
Although Hitchin had started to settle into their rhythm, Town were looking lively themselves and always posed a threat with the likes of Isaac, Dan Sweeney and Javia Roberts up the top end of the pitch.
And from one such break in the 37th minute, Sweeney did well to hold the ball up and lay it into the path of Roberts, but his shot zipped wide of the mark.
But the Canaries continued to pile forward and after a sustained five-minute spell of pressure, Alex Marsh could only hit the side-netting after Pardington failed to punch a cross from the far side away from danger.
That missed proved costly as immediately up the other end, Isaac turned on the afterburners to outpace his man, surge into the box and square to Roberts who had the simple task of slotting into an unguarded net from a couple of yards out.
Hitchin started the brighter of the two sides after the break and only some desperate Town defending kept the visitors at bay.
The relentless Canaries pressure continued in the opening stages of the second half and a mistake by Okito gave Hutchinson the chance to have a free shot on goal, but Pardington was quick off his line to make the crucial save.
But the Canaries onslaught finally reaped its rewards three minutes before the hour mark when Cawley managed to poke the ball over the line following a goalmouth scramble.
And in the 66th minute the Canaries had clawed their way back into the game when Hutchinson got in behind the Town defence once again and slotted through the legs of Pardington to level proceedings up at 2-2.
Paul Davis brought on Leam Howards in place of Reece Flanagan in a bid to give Town, who had been second-best throughout the half, some impetus and the move proved to be an inspired one.
A long punt upfield was glanced on by Sweeney into the path of Howards, who held off two challenges on his way into the box before smashing the ball past Charles Horlock to put Town back in front.
Stunned to be behind having dominated for such a long time, the Canaries showed they were not done yet and they came close to making it 3-3 with 11 minutes to go, but Walster’s 25-yard free-kick flew just off target.
Town were really hanging on as the dying embers of the match approached, but their resistance was finally broken in the second minute of stoppage time when Courtney Richards conceded a free-kick right on the edge of Town’s penalty area.
Walster’s shot cannoned off the post and Hutchinson reacted quickest to fire the rebound back across goal and into the far corner to rescue a point for the Canaries.
TOWN: James Pardington, Dan Vann, Gedeon Okito, Courtney Richards, Dan Alessi, Kyle Rowley, Javia Roberts, Mo Sebbeh-Njie (Paul Douglas 78), Dan Sweeney, Reece Flanagan (Leam Howards 68), Kynan Isaac (Kyle Ambris 88). Unused subs: David Pitt, Rob Thompson-Brown.
HITCHIN: Charles Horlock, Jack Green, Ben Walster, Joshua Coldicott-Stevens, Dan Webb, Lewis Rolfe, Lewis Barker, Alex Marsh, Stephen Cawley, Jacob Hutchinson, Diogo Freitas-Gouveia (Brad Bell 68). Unused subs: Maximillian Ryan, Rio Da Silva, Brett Donnelly, Kye Tearle.