Didcot Town 0-0 aet Hitchin Town (3-2 on penalties): Mark Burke's battling braves triumph in FA Cup penalty drama
PUBLISHED: 22:36 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 22:36 25 September 2018
Hitchin Town travelled to Didcot Town on Tuesday evening for their FA Cup second preliminary round replay. Read on for Layth Yousif's match report from the Loop.
A valiant battling display from Mark Burke’s Hitchin Town saw the visitors from North Herts edge Didcot Town 3-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw after extra time in their FA Cup second qualifying round replay.
The defeat was cruel on the home side in a match in which neither side deserved to lose.
Both teams gave their all and deserve huge credit but it is Hitchin who now progress to the third qualifying round and a clash against Hastings.
The Canaries had travelled to The Loop in deepest Oxfordshire under a bright Harvest moon on Tuesday evening after the hard-fought 1-1 draw at Top Field at the weekend.
Three days previously Burke’s side led through a Charlie Thake goal cancelled out by Brett Gardner’s equaliser for the ‘Diddy’ as the teams competed for the chance of progression in the world’s oldest knock-out tournament.
There was also the not-inconsiderable sum of £9,000 awaiting the victors. Or the ‘life-changing’ amount that club stalwart, secretary and treasurer Roy Izzard labelled the bonus for winning the tie.
Burke made one change from Saturday’s game with Scott Belgrove replacing Robbie Burns who picked up a hamstring injury but was still named on the bench.
Didcot boss Andy Ballard opted for the same team which earned the draw in North Herts on Saturday.
Appropriately enough with a tie against Hastings awaiting the victor in the third qualifying round the scene was set for a battle.
The home side started brightly with the majority of possession before the tricky Morgan Williams fired off a vicious shot on 22 minutes that flew past Michael Johnson’s near post.
The left-sided No11 twisted and turned down the channel to work space against a diligent Macsen Fraser, who was equal to the task, as he pushed him wide enough to narrow the angle.
A pacey and direct left winger Morgan was previously top goalscorer with the Railwaymen before he moved on to North Leigh, returning to the Loop towards the end of last term, netting crucial goals along the way to aid Didcot into the playoffs.
He was to be a lively presence throughout.
It was the talented Tre Charles who next to trouble a keeper as his long-range effort ten minutes before the interval tested home shotstopper Leigh Bedwell.
With so much at stake the game was full of perspiration if not inspiration even if the quick feet of Didcot’s Callum McNish entertained the home support prior to the interval.
The second half started in much the same vein with Ballard’s ‘Diddy’ on top as the Canaries backline staged a resolute rearguard action punctuated by rapid if sporadic counters.
Despite a valiant effort from both sets of players the tie could still not be settled in 90 minutes – 180 in total over the two games – as the sides roused themselves for 30 minutes extra-time.
Heavy legs were apparent as McNish fired narrowly wide as the teams battled each other to a standstill.
Tempers frayed in the second period of extra-time after substitute Isaac Galliford went down in the box after a challenge from the giant Didcot centre-half Luke Carnell.
While referee Jonathan Creswick correctly ruled out awarding a penalty it was a harsh accuser who claimed it was a dive.
As it was, Galliford and Carnell exchanged robust views in the aftermath as a number of players joined in the fray.
Ultimately the spat was much ado about nothing – and not keeping in the spirit of what had gone one previously with the hard-fought clash having been played in an exemplary spirit.
Galliford nearly got his revenge when a hopeful effort into the box hit the bar before Thake fired over when well-placed but that would have been harsh on the home side as the game moved to dreaded spot-kicks – and cup glory.
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