Beardsley strike settles competitive derby
Striker nets late winner for Boro
Hitchin Town 0 Boro 1
CHRIS Beardsley’s strike four minutes from time ensured it was a winning start for Boro in a competitive Comet country derby at Hitchin.
As you would expect from both sides’ first action of the summer, the game was slow to start as both teams found their feet and worked through the gears but it soon sparked to life and finished with an open and competitive encounter that either side could have snatched prior to Beardsley’s intervention.
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Despite Graham Westley’s side enjoying the greater of the possession throughout proceedings, the home side showed themselves to be accomplished and efficient ball players with what possession they did have.
It was Carl Williams’ side who produced the first effort of note of the evening when Zak Burke’s floated free kick was flicked over the bar by strike partner John Frendo, who had earlier been presented with his award for being top scorer in last season’s Southern Division One Central Division.
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It was a moment of worry for goalkeeper Alan Julian, one of two summer signings to start the game for Boro. The other, Jennison Myrie-Williams, started off tentatively but grew as the game progressed.
Arguably Boro’s best opportunity of the first 45 minutes went the way of record signing Craig Reid but the striker was to be denied by Hitchin stopper Martin Bennett; it was to be a theme that continued throughout the game.
A long ball forward was flicked on by Ben May into the path of Reid who burst past his marker and attempted to lift the ball over the on-rushing custodian, only for Bennett to read the striker’s mind and stick out a paw to bat the ball away.
The goalkeeper was at it again when Reid latched onto Joel Byrom’s excellent pass only to see his effort diverted around the post by the Hitchin stopper.
Hitchin were giving as good as they got and probably should have taken the lead when Julian spilt the ball on the edge of his box only to be let off the hook by Luke Gregson’s wayward effort. It was to be the only blot on an otherwise excellent evening for the Hitchin midfielder.
The returning Boro ‘keeper then redeemed himself with a good block low down to denying marauding wing-back Tom Pepper as the game opened up.
Stevenage really should have taken the lead minutes later when Reid’s quick footwork bamboozled the Hitchin defence and led to an easy opportunity for May who somehow lifted the ball over the crossbar and onto the big open terrace behind from less than six yards out.
It was to be the striker’s last contribution as the raft of changes at half time saw Beardsley, Byron Harrison, Peter Winn and trialists Robin Shroot enter the fray, along with goalkeeper Joe Welch fresh from his game for Ebbsfleet United on Monday evening.
Midfielder Shroot was released by Birmingham City this summer, the Blues having plucked him out of non-league football after an impressive spell at Harrow Borough and the 23-year-old immediately made himself busy in the Boro engine room linking
Town boss Williams made just the one alteration at the break bringing Jamie Arlick on for Frendo and he could have seen his side take the lead just five minutes after the restart when Gregson burst through on goal only to shoot over the bar.
A fired up Beardsley did well down the left flank to win possession for Boro, teeing up Winn who picked out Lawrie Wilson but his header was deflected wide of the post.
Louis Lee and trialists Mark E’Beyer and Jamie Osbourne were introduced by the home side, with Osbourne in particular looking lively but it was another substitute, Arlick, who came closest to opening the scoring.
Young full-back Josh Bickerstaff burst down the left wing unchallenged and sent over a delightful cross that Arlick met with a diving header that just looped over Welch’s crossbar.
From then on it became the Bennett show as the Hitchin stopper produced a string of fine saves to deny Boro.
First the Hitchin ‘keeper blocked an effort from Harrison after the Boro striker had been picked out by youngster Tom Collins, then he denied former youth team player Michael Thalassitis.
The young Boro man again went head-to-head with Bennett minutes later, this time with an effort from distance but the Canaries’ No.1 tipped the ball over the bar. Having reminded everyone of his capabilities, Bennett was replaced by Polish stopper Bartolomiej Pedrycz. The Pole had only been on three minutes when a mix up between him and summer signing Lawrie Stewart saw Harrison presented with a chance but Pedrycz recovered to smother the loose ball.
At the other end E’Beyer had a shot deflected wide and from the corner Gilbert’s header just missed the post.
Boro hit back with Thalassitis feeding Beardsley only for the Boro striker to be denied by Pedrycz but the striker made no mistake four minutes later when he hit the only goal of the game.
Boro won possession back in their own half through Lawrie Wilson who raced down the right and slipped the ball into the path of Thalassitis. The youngster saw his effort pushed away by Pedrycz but the ball fell kindly to Beardsley who beat the two men on the line to net Boro the win.
Hitchin now turn their attentions to tomorrow (Friday) night’s game with another of their near neighbours, Luton Town, while Boro’s next action sees them welcome a Fulham XI to the Lamex Stadium on Sunday.
Hitchin: Bennett (Pedrycz 77); Pepper, Leach, Gilbert �, Stewart, Bickerstaff; Payne (Lee 55), Donnelly (E’Beyer 55), Gregson; Frendo (Arlick 46), Burke (Osbourne 60).
Boro: Julian (Welch 46); Henry (Federico 60), Roberts, Bostwick, Laird (Winn 46); Wilson, Mousinho (Thalasitis 60), Byrom (Shroot 46), Myrie-Williams (Collins 60); May (Harrison 46), Reid (Beardsley 46).
Referee: G Evetts.