Hitchin Town 1 Royston Town 0: Donnelly delivers first win for Canaries
PUBLISHED: 17:07 28 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:07 28 August 2017
Hitchin Town picked up their first win of the Evo-Stik Southern Premier season by beating local rivals Royston Town on Bank Holiday Monday.
Callum Donnelly scored the only goal of the game with a well-placed finish in the 35th minute to secure a much-needed win for the Canaries at Top Field.
Hitchin boss Mark Burke made one change from Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Biggleswade Town, replacing injured Brett Donnelly with goal scorer Elliot Bailey in attack.
Royston were missing former Canaries men John Frendo and Matt Nolan but they did name ex-Stevenage striker Adam Marriott on their bench.
The visitors had the opening chance inside 60 seconds, when Jack Vasey outmuscled Lewis Rolfe before cutting the ball back for James Potton who fired over when he should have done better.
Bailey then had Hitchin’s first chance as he dragged a left footed shot wide of the far post after being played in by Liam Brooks.
Despite the beating sun at Top Field, the game flowed from end-to-end in the early stages in an energetic opening.
Canaries ‘keeper Michael Johnson was called into action to save a toe-poked Stuart Bridges effort with seven minutes played while Josh Castiglione fired a shot over from range.
Hitchin had a goal disallowed in the 18th minute as Dan Webb headed on a Callum Donnelly free-kick to Brooks who flicked the ball past the ‘keeper but had strayed into an offside position.
At the other end, Johnson was forced into a crucial save to keep the scores level as he pushed away a powerful Ryan Ingrey header from six yards out.
Chances kept on coming for both teams, as Hitchin midfielder Lucas Kirkpatrick spurned a glorious opportunity to give the hosts the lead, scuffing his shot from inside the area after Brooks’ pull back.
Donnelly made no such mistake in the 35th minute when a long ball from Rolfe evaded Royston defender Ed Asafu-Adjaye and gave him a clear run at goal, as he kept his composure as goalkeeper Joe Welch rushed to meet him, slotting the ball into the net to give the Canaries the lead.
Now in the ascendancy, Hitchin looked to double their lead before half-time as Brooks stung the gloves of Welch from the edge of the area but they couldn’t find a second.
The Canaries came out firing early in the second half and very nearly made it 2-0 through Kirkpatrick, who saw his low curling effort pushed round the post by Welch, having seemed destined for the far corner.
Jay Dowie was next to call the Royston ‘keeper into action driving a low shot straight at Welch.
But Royston began to bombard the Hitchin area as they looked for an equaliser, with Gus Scott-Morriss coming close with an effort flashed across Johnson’s goal and behind to safety.
Burke introduced Trey Charles just after the hour mark and the winger looked to make an immediate impact cutting in from the right and forcing a save from Welch low to his left.
Johnson was the called into action at the other end, getting down quickly to turn a Scott Bridges shot behind for a corner.
And as the half progressed Hitchin put men behind the ball as they looked to hold onto their narrow lead, restricting Royston to half chances with some superb defending from Rolfe, Webb and Josh Bickerstaff in particular.
Both teams appeared to tire in the Bank Holiday Monday heat as neither could carve out any further opportunities, meaning the Canaries held on for a valuable three points and their first win of the league season.
Hitchin Town: Johnson, Cotter (Charles 66), Walster (Roberts 57), Rolfe, Webb, Bickerstaff, Kirkpatrick, C Donnelly (Green 74), Brooks, Bailey, Dowie. Unused subs: Smith, Syme.
Royston Town: Welch, Scott-Morriss, Chappell, Scott Bridges (Marriott 54), Asafu-Adjaye, Braithwaite, Ingrey, Stuart Bridges, Vasey (Orlando-Young 71), Potton, Castiglione (Powell 54). Unused subs: Tewkesbury, Alomenu.