Tough opening day for the Canaries

PUBLISHED: 13:26 14 August 2008 | UPDATED: 16:29 05 May 2010

Hitchin Town will have a tough opening day this Saturday if last season s record against Swindon Supermarine is a benchmark. The Canaries failed to score against a well-organised Swindon side in two games, losing at home 1-0 and drawing in the return game

Hitchin Town will have a tough opening day this Saturday if last season's record against Swindon Supermarine is a benchmark.

The Canaries failed to score against a well-organised Swindon side in two games, losing at home 1-0 and drawing in the return game in March.

Manager Mark Collier has built a hard-working team that exceeded expectations last season and finished 12th in the BGB Premier.

Canaries boss Darran Hay expects a hard first game and said: "Swindon were a hard team to play against last season and I anticipate we'll see more of the same this time around.

"But we have had a good pre-season, we're fit and raring to go."

Fans will be eager to see the team Hay starts with on Saturday, with new signing Ian Draycott now in the squad.

The former Bedford striker, a product of Bedford's youth academy, was released by the Eagles in the close season. He impressed in Hitchin's game with Stevenage Boro a few weeks ago and scored in his first appearance.

Winger Jon Woolf will be missing and there will be concerns over Luke Gregson who was injured in the 4-0 home defeat against Aylesbury. Ieuan Lewis is still injured.

Swindon have strengthened their squad in the summer with the signing of former Cirencester keeper Matt Bulman and much-travelled striker Alan Griffin.

Much is expected of both players and Griffin will be a menace for the Hitchin defence.

But Hitchin have one of the best strikers in the BGB Premier Division in Paul Barnes. He has been in excellent form in pre-season, scoring seven times and looking sharp.

Hay will be looking to build on the progress made last season. The Canaries have two difficult away games to follow the Swindon game, at Oxford City and Yate, before the bank holiday game with highly-fancied Cambridge City.

"All games are tough, but it is important for us to get off to a good start," he added.

"I'm confident we can do that, but I know we will have to be at our best to come through the opening month with a good haul of points."

* There were mixed fortunes for the Canaries in their final two pre-season friendlies.

Although the Harlow game was seen as a game against similar opposition, the Aylesbury United game was an opportunity for the Hitchin management to field some triallists. As a result, it was a disjointed performance against a team that ended up winning comfortably.

Against Harlow, Hitchin put on one of their most fluent performances of the pre-season programme in a 3-1 win.

Gordon Barr gave the Canaries the lead after 18 minutes with a fierce drive and after 45 minutes Michael Cox headed the second goal. Three minutes from time, Mark Barnes added a third for Hitchin and it was not until right at the end that Danny Green pulled one back for Harlow.

It was a much different Hitchin side that came up against Aylesbury, who included former Canary Stuart Maynard in their line-up.

Mick Brooks and Rob Kleiser took the opportunity to look at some potential signings and in a game of multiple substitutions, there was little shape to the Hitchin side.

Aylesbury took the lead through Nick Leach on 18 minutes and further goals came from Glen Hawkins, Aaron Flood and a penalty by Liam Smyth in the final minute. Hitchin ended the game with 10 men after an injury to Gregson.

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