Hitchin Town 2-4 Wealdstone as Stones impress at Top Field
PUBLISHED: 13:52 01 August 2017
Hitchin Town were handed a defeat by National League South side Wealdstone which demonstrated the high quality at the next step of football’s “pyramid”.
After a tough first half, Mark Burke’s Canaries did well to restore parity on the hour but their defence was breached twice later in the game to give Wealdstone a victory few could begrudge.
After the exciting 2-1 win against a young Arsenal XI on Wednesday evening, Hitchin encountered an experienced, powerful and pacy opposition at Top Field that only just missed out on their own play-offs last term.
Football League stalwarts David Hunt, Elliot Benyon, Danny Green and Ricky Wellard were in the starting eleven but it was Abobaker Eisa, a summer signing from Uxbridge, who caught the eye with his direct running at the Hitchin defence to add to an already impressive pre-season featuring goals against the U23 sides of Reading and Watford.
The Stones had a goal ruled out in the first minute for offside, and an Eddie Oshodi header cleared for a corner before a curling Eisa shot forced keeper Michael Johnson into action.
On 17 minutes, it was Eisa who broke the deadlock. With Jay Dowie caught upfield after a Hitchin attack, the winger ran into space down the left. Dan Webb held him up but Eisa simply cut between the Canary skipper and Dowie to plant a shot past Johnson.
Wealdstone nearly doubled their lead as Johnson saved from Benyon and the powerful Mustafa Tiryaki headed wide.
The home side struggled to break out of their own half although Liam Brooks and Lucas Kirkpatrick tried their luck with long range shots. Striker Brooks had Hitchin’s best first half opportunity when he broke the Wealdstone offside trap and tried to round the keeper only for Jonathan North to gratefully gather the ball with an outstretched hand.
After the interval, Hitchin regrouped with Charlie Smith and Lewis Rolfe reinforcing midfield and James Budden joining the defence. Hitchin sensed their chance and a frantic six minutes saw the Canaries back on level terms with Brooks powerful running creating problems. On 54 minutes, he got on the end of a Kirkpatrick pass to level with a strike to add to his midweek goal against Arsenal.
Wealdstone restored their lead four minutes later as Tiryaki headed home a free kick but Hitchin were undaunted, levelling on the hour as Brooks again broke free of the defence. This time he was hauled back for a penalty which Ben Walster calmly tucked away from the spot.
Danny Green and Eisa came close with free kicks for the visitors and they regained the lead on 73 minutes. Out of nowhere, Green was given space and let fly from some 30 yards, his powerful shot flying over Johnson.
Six minutes later Wealdstone had the game wrapped up as substitute Dan Fitchett was played in behind the Canary defence and had plenty of time to place his shot for 4-2.
Will Wright had the best chance to pull a goal back as his angled shot forced North into a scrambled save but, despite Hitchin pressure, there was no further score.
Mark Burke admitted the better side had won. He said: “Wealdstone were a lot sharper than us with good movement. I was disappointed with some of our defensive play and we played in front of Wealdstone without really hurting them in the first half.”
He had praise for front man Liam Brooks “He took his goal really well, made the penalty and held it up well for us”.
He also had encouragement for new defender James Budden adding: “He slotted in well and didn’t look out of place. He’s a big lad but he can play as well.”
The Canaries are back at Top Field on tonight, Tuesday for a Hertfordshire Charity Cup fixture against another National League South opponent in St Albans, kickoff 7.45pm).
Burke will await news on midfielder Jack Green who took a first half knock but confirmed that defender Connor Roberts would be unavailable with a broken hand sustained last week.
Hitchin Town - Johnson, Dowie, Walster, Wright, Webb, Rolfe, Clifton (Budden), Kirkpatrick (McCaffrey), Bailey, Brooks (Charles), Jack Green (Smith)
Wealdstone - North, Oshodi (Crilly), Okimo, Hunt, Hill, Brown (Wiltshire), Wellard (Hippolyte-Patrick), Danny Green (Olafsen), Benyon, Tiryaki (Fitchett), Eisa (Anastasiou)