Hitchin fight back to keep unbeaten run going

PUBLISHED: 10:26 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:37 20 February 2017

Hitchin Town put the Frome goalie under pressure at a corner.

Hitchin Town put the Frome goalie under pressure at a corner.

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Hitchin Town could not extend their winning run but did grab a valuable point in the fight for Southern Premier promotion after twice coming from behind to draw at home with Frome.

Mark Burke made several changes from their win over St Albans City last week – Brett and Callum Donnelly returned along with Robbie Burns and Matt Lench – and the Canaries piled on early pressure with Lucas Kirkpatrick pulling the strings in midfield.

Lench fired wide when put through by a good Callum Donnelly pass, while Will Wright headed over after Dan Webb had nodded on a Josh Bickerstaff free-kick.

For the Robins, the early threat came from Jon Davies’ free-kicks. His effort from the right corner of the box was harmless but from the opposite side he hurried Michael Johnson into a save at his near post while the keeper also kept out a George Miller shot.

Hitchin’s best chance before the break came when Kane Smith picked up the ball in his own half and ran at the Robins’ defence while Brett Donnelly drew defenders away with him.

Smith let fly from the edge of the box but his shot slammed against the crossbar and away to safety.

The deadlock was broken with a well worked goal claimed by Darren Jeffries.

James Fitzgibbon broke down the left, surging past Smith, and his cut back was squared across the area by Davies to the onrushing Jeffries who fired home from the edge of the box.

Burns finished the half with a snapshot that was at a nice height for Kyle Phillips to collect but Hitchin went in a goal down despite looking the better side.

It took only five minutes after the break for Hitchin to level when Brett Donnelly followed up his initial header from a near post ball by Smith.

The header was parried but the striker poked home the loose ball in a goalmouth melee.

While Johnson again had to save from George Miller, Hitchin sought out a second goal and had opportunities to take the lead.

Burns and Brett Donnelly set up a chance for Lench but he shot wide, and Lench also forced a save from Phillips after he and Brett Donnelly had exchanged neat passes down the right.

Another good chance fell to Burns from a great through ball by Kirkpatrick. Hitchin’s top scorer was one on one with Phillips but the keeper came out positively and blocked the shot.

Hitchin would pay for that on 67 minutes when Smith gave away a free-kick against Fitzgibbon in the middle of the park, for which he was booked.

Davies’ free-kick was nodded down in the area for Jake Jackson to convert on the turn at close range.

However Hitchin bounced back within three minutes when a cross to the far post eluded Phillips only for Dan Webb to stoop and head home.

The game opened out as both sides looked for a winning goal. Phillips palmed away a dangerous Lench cross but the best chance saw Davies coming close for Frome as he ran past Webb only to screw his shot wide.

Despite having more of the game, a draw was probably a fair result as Frome gave Hitchin’s defence a difficult afternoon.

The Robins continue to prove a bogey team at Top Field, having now won two and drawn two of their last four visits, but the Canaries remain firmly in the play-off frame ahead of the important trip to Merthyr in South Wales on Tuesday evening.

Hitchin Town: Johnson, Smith, Bickerstaff, Rolfe, Webb, Wright, Lench (McNamara), C Donnelly (Spence), B Donnelly (Brooks), Burns, Kirkpatrick. Subs: Bennett, Walster.

Frome Town: Phillips, Krissy Miller, Teale, Roberts, Mapstone, Green, Davies, George Miller, Jackson (Knight), Bryant (Jeffries), Fitzgibbon. Subs: Cregan, Walker, Cleverley.

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