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Ebanks hat-trick steers Bards to away day win

Hitchin Town 3, Stratford Town 4

Hitchin Town’s Topfields ground has never been a happy hunting ground for the Bards, but that all changed at the weekend as a Callum Ebanks hat-trick and Dan Lafferty goal wrapped up a fourth win in a row, reports Steve Wood.

It proved to be a game of two halves for the visitors against a Canaries side who came into the match without a league win since 16th December although they had added a number of loan signings in the run-up to the game.

Stratford made one change to their line up with the experienced Liam Daly replacing the absent Chris Hussey. Joining recent signing Tom Hewlett on the bench was another experienced loanee – Callum Coyle from Rushall Olympic.

Dan Lafferty scores Stratford Town’s opener against Hitchin Town. Photo: Paul Grant/STFC
Dan Lafferty scores Stratford Town’s opener against Hitchin Town. Photo: Paul Grant/STFC

It was the Bards who started the better and yet then fell behind against the run of play with a simple goal on 12 minutes. A long ball was helped on down the Hitchin right and then switched quickly to the vacant area down the left where full-back Layne Eadie had the easiest of jobs to score.

The remainder of the half saw the visitors create a number of chances created without causing keeper Charlie Horlock, on his 250th appearance, into action. Lewis Ison was the key culprit as he failed to hit the target on three occasions from in front of goal.

Stratford came out of the blocks at the start of the second half in determined fashion and Callum Ebanks, frustrated in the first half, produced a mature display that resulted in his second hat-trick of the season. They moved the ball much quicker and with more accuracy which the hosts struggled to come to terms with.

Manager Gavin Hurren was forced to make a change five minutes into the half after Tom Solanke took a knock and was replaced by Lafferty for his first game in five weeks.

Stratford turned the game just before the hour with two goals in less than three minutes. The 55th minute equaliser came from a long throw from Ison which was flicked on by Daly and although the ball was half cleared, Lafferty fired home. Two minutes later Charlie Williams picked out Ebanks in the middle for the striker to tap home.

Lewis Ison in action for the Bards at Hitchin Town on Saturday. Photo: Paul Grant/STFC
Lewis Ison in action for the Bards at Hitchin Town on Saturday. Photo: Paul Grant/STFC

Coyle came on for his debut midway through the half with Hewlett coming off the bench soon after ahead of a frenetic period of play that saw substitute Joshua Popoola level on 74 minutes only for Ebanks to promptly bag his second.

When the Stratford hotshot completed his hat-trick on 80 minutes, a lob over the keeper after getting onto a monster kick from keeper Callum Smith, it should have been plain sailing until the close. But Hitchin had other ideas, kept pressing, and were rewarded with another goal from Popoola in added time – a well-struck effort from outside the box.

Hitchin: Horlock, Bell, Eadie, Syme, Kpakpe (Jones 66), Tearle, Cotter (Popoola 72), Gleeson, Idiakhoa, Galliford, Snelus. Subs (not used): Ezewhele, Ostle

Stratford Town: Smith, Vann, Worley, Daly (Hewlett 70), McCone, Solanke (Lafferty 55), Storer (Coyle 67), Hawker, Ebanks, Ison, Williams. Subs (not used): Wilson, Molyneux

Referee: Joanne Horwood

Attendance: 473

Bards Star Man: Callum Ebanks

Opposition Star Man: Joshua Popool

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