Canaries still search for first home win

Four points from two games would have normally been an acceptable haul, but Hitchin are still looking for their first home win of the season after Tuesday night s eventful 1-1 draw with BGB Premier strugglers Rugby Town. Hitchin dominated the game but the

Four points from two games would have normally been an acceptable haul, but Hitchin are still looking for their first home win of the season after Tuesday night's eventful 1-1 draw with BGB Premier strugglers Rugby Town.

Hitchin dominated the game but the answer to their problems was sitting in the stand - Paul Barnes, their talismanic front man, was sidelined with an injury that forced him to miss the past two games.

Had Barnes been on the pitch, the Canaries might have turned their superiority into goals.

As it was, Hitchin had the perfect opportunity to take a first-half lead when they were awarded a 33rd minute penalty. Unfortunately, Lee Wilson crashed the ball against the crossbar.

From there on, though, the chances came. Tyron Sealey, looking tricky in his first home game back at the club, sent a low shot goalwards that was saved by Rugby goalkeeeper Andrew Stevens and Mark Barnes, after being set up by Ian Draycott, saw his shot deflected for a corner.

The latter stages of the half were positively Wagnerian as the heavens opened. So bad was the rain and so aggressive the lightning, that referee Bryan took the teams off the field - for around 20 seconds!

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It was much the same in the second period as Hitchin started to put together some good moves.

Jon Woolf shot across the face of goal and substitute Russell Bull hooked the ball wide after an incisive move involving Woolf. Following a corner, Draycott looked set to score but Steve Perton cleared the ball off the line. Sealey also went close, making space for himself and sending a right-foot drive against the angle of bar and post.

But then the unthinkable happened. Rugby, who had netted just one goal in five games, scored in the 75th minute when a Darren Dykes cross was headed in off the bar by Rory Curtis.

Within a minute, however, Hitchin equalised when Bull missed an opportunity but the ball rolled back to Derwayne Stupple who sent a low and precise shot into the net.

Late in the game, Rugby substitute Avun Jephcott struck a post with a header and Carl Williams saw his close-range effort saved by Stevens. Gordon Barr almost repeated his match-winning antics at Brackley but the referee had already flagged for offside.

Canaries: Bennett, Pepper, Wilson, Williams, Gilbert, Smith, Woolf (Barr 73m), Stupple, M Barnes (Bull 57m), Draycott (Gregson 65m), Sealey.

* Barr became Hitchin's unlikely hero on Saturday when he netted an added time winner at Brackley to give the Canaries their second league win of the season.

With the game heading for stalemate after a second period that saw Hitchin fail to build on an impressive first half, Barr, who had come on as substitute in the 70th minute, rolled the ball into the net to earn Darran Hay's side a valuable three points.

Brackley have been named as one of the possible play-off candidates this season, so a victory at St James Park is a genuinely good result for Hitchin.

They started the game without influential figures Luke Gregson and Paul Barnes, but in the first 45 minutes, they were on top against a shot-shy home side.

Mark Barnes and Draycott both had chances to open the scoring but it was Barnes who gave the Canaries the lead in the 25th minute, taking advantage of slack defending, rounding goalkeeper Richard Knight and prodding the ball into the net.

Eight minutes later, Brackley drew level, the unmarked Ben Mackey receiving the ball and half volleying it past Martin Bennett.

But Hitchin could have restored their lead before the break, notably when a quickly taken free-kick resulted in Draycott shooting across the face of goal and new signing, the returning Sealey, just failed to connect.

Just before the whistle, Stupple headed on to the roof of the net.

Brackley were a different side in the second half and Mackey missed an open goal in the early stages. Wayne Blossom also went close with a far post header from Tom Winters' free-kick.

Mackey troubled Hitchin again as Brackley started to turn the screw. With Hitchin withdrawing their forwards and sending on Bull to play a lone role, it looked as if Hay had settled for a point.

In added time, however, a free-kick from Wilson sailed into the area and Bull knocked the ball across goal, leaving Barr with the simple task to score. He could scarcely believe it, the home crowd were stunned but Hay and his management team were delighted.

There was still time for Brackley defender David Perpetuini to be red carded for an unexplained incident.

In many ways, it was hard lines on Brackley, but how many times have Hitchin been on the reverse of results like that?

Canaries: Bennett, Pepper, Wilson, Williams, Gilbert, Smith, Woolf, Stupple, M Barnes (Barr 70m), Draycott (Cox 65m), Sealey (Bull 58m).