Hitchin are up and running
Don t be misled by the narrow scoreline, the Canaries were convincing 3-2 winners against newly-promoted Oxford City on Tuesday night as they collected their first points of the season. For an hour, Hitchin looked a class above their hosts and they strode
Don't be misled by the narrow scoreline, the Canaries were convincing 3-2 winners against newly-promoted Oxford City on Tuesday night as they collected their first points of the season.
For an hour, Hitchin looked a class above their hosts and they strode into a three-goal lead thanks to some clinical finishing.
Right from the start, Hitchin looked to have gained a yard in pace from the opening day of the campaign.
It was not long before they took the lead, with new signing Jonathan Woolf marking his league debut with a goal. Paul Barnes received the ball from Ian Draycott and his shot struck a post, only for Woolf to follow up from close range to score.
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In a frantic opening spell, Barnes could have grabbed a hat-trick. His first chance came when Derwayne Stupple fed him and he shot wide, then another effort was tipped round the post by goalkeeper Steve Smith.
As the first period drew to a close, Barnes was involved again, volleying over after the ball fell kindly for him in the penalty area.
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Barnes demonstrated his pace in the opening 30 seconds of the restart. He dashed down the wing, crossed and Draycott hit a first time shot high into the net - a truly outstanding goal.
Hitchin remained on top until the 65th minute when Barnes at last got himself on the scoresheet. His first effort, a delightful chip, sailed over Smith and struck the crossbar. The ball came back and Barnes moved forward to head into the net.
Surprisingly, Oxford were given a lifeline almost immediately after Barnes' deserved goal. Substitute Yashwa Romeo sent a near post header past Martin Bennett from a corner.
In the 69th minute, the margin was reduced to one goal as Romeo was upended in the box and James Saulsbury netted from the penalty spot.
There were a few flutters, but neither side created anything of note in the final 20 minutes, leaving Hitchin to claim their first win of the new campaign.
Manager Darran Hay said: "Much better; we played some good football and thoroughly deserved to win."
Canaries: Bennett, Cox, Pepper, Williams, Gilbert, Smith, Gregson, Stupple, P Barnes, Draycott (M Barnes 77m), Woolf (Barr 77m).
* Hitchin's fans trudged away from Top Field disappointed on Saturday as the Canaries ended the day goalless and pointless against Swindon Supermarine.
Words like lacklustre and anti-climax were being uttered by the Hitchin faithful, but manager Hay, although unhappy with the outcome, felt there was some positives to be had.
He said: "We were poor in the first half, but I think we did enough to get something in the second. On another day, we would have had a goal or two."
Hay's men were undone by a strong Swindon defence and the selfless performance of the Swindon frontmen.
Hitchin's own strikeforce, the Barnes boys, had one of those days when things just would not go right. Indeed, Paul, who has been in sparkling form in pre-season, should have had at least one goal.
But the first half was Swindon's and Hitchin struggled to get into gear. That said, Paul Barnes almost netted in the 19th minute when he linked up with brother Mark and flicked wide of the goal.
Swindon had the better chances, however, with Alan Griffin setting up Steve Cook, but his shot was off target and then Griffin being denied by Bennett.
Hitchin started better in the second period, with Paul Barnes racing through but seeing his tame shot saved by Matt Bulman.
The ball ran loose, and substitute Draycott seemed to be pulled down, but referee Knowles ignored the half-hearted pleas for a penalty. Draycott then teed-up Paul Barnes but his chip sailed away from the Swindon goal.
Luke Gregson also went close with a chip that was just inches away from giving Hitchin the lead.
In the 73rd minute, however, Griffin rolled the ball across the face of the Hitchin goal and Cook tapped it into the net to give Swindon the lead.
Hitchin retaliated, but they were unable to make much headway.
Stupple's low shot was easily saved by Bulman and in the dying seconds, Gregson headed wide after a good cross by Michael Cox, but there was no way back for the Canaries.
Hay insisted: "There are 41 more games to go - we've got time and the players to get it right."
Canaries: Bennett, Cox, Pepper, Williams, Gilbert, Smith, Barr (Draycott 46m), Stupple, P Barnes, M Barnes, Wilson (Gregson 66m).