Hitchin Town move up to third in table with Kings Langley triumph
PUBLISHED: 20:52 04 February 2017 | UPDATED: 21:03 04 February 2017
Two Will Wright penalties saw Hitchin Town beat nine-man Kings Langley 2-0 and move up to third in Southern League Premier at a packed Top Field this afternoon (Saturday).
In front of their biggest home league crowd of the season on a day they invited fans to ‘pay what they wanted’, Hitchin started slowly but still had the better of the chances in the opening half with Callum Donnelly and Robbie Burns each going close twice.
Struggling Langley, hovering just about the drop zone, gave the aura of a side very happy to leave with a point as persistent time-wasting, primarily from goakeeper Xavi Comas, saw them clinging to a clean sheet up to the half-time interval.
Their resistance was broken five minutes into the second half though as the later dismissed Lewis Toomey was adjudged to have handled Lucas Kirkpatrick’s corner inside the box. Up stepped Wright to put Mark Burke’s men ahead.
Toomey’s afternoon did not improve and 20 minutes from time he was given his marching orders by referee Wilson after a foul-mouthed tirade at the man in the middle.
The visitors, who had no shots on target in the whole 90 minutes, never looked like getting back into the match and their fate was sealed in the 85th minute.
Callum Donnelly’s 25-yard shot was blocked in the area by the arm of Gary Connolly and Wright made it two from the two from 12 yards.
To add insult to injury, defender Mayo Balogun was mistakenly sent off in added time.
Substitute Immanuelson Duku tripped Mason Spence on the touchline but the official believed the challenge to have been made by Balogun and handed him a second yellow and an early bath.
Not a bad afternoon’s viewing for the 680 crammed inside the ground.
The home side displayed the swagger of a side rightfully near the summit of the table in the opening stages but their shooting was not as impressive.
Callum Donnelly supplied his brother Brett with a chance on 16 minutes but Comas made the first of a string of good saves on the day, blocking at his feet.
Brett Donnelly then turned provider for top scorer Robbie Burns six minutes later but his shot harmlessly bobbled into the keeper’s arms.
The Donnelly brothers continued to probe and had Callum been just a few inches taller he would have put the hosts ahead.
Kane Smith’s terrific cross arrowed towards the attacker but he nodded over the bar from six yards stretching for the ball.
A minute later Callum Donnelly set up Burns who flashed a shot wide of the near post with the goal half-open as Comas scrambled across.
Burns then had two gilt-edged chances in first-half added time.
First the keeper came to the rescue once more, turning the striker’s shot wide from close range, and moments later an identical save allowed the adventrous Langley to go into the interval level.
Manager Burke would most likely have said stay patient and the goals will come and sure enough, soon after the half-time break, Hitchin got their reward as Toomey inexplicably handled Kirkpatrick’s set-piece with Wright gratefully putting the home side in front.
Then, skipper Dan Webb could have allowed the home faithful to breathe even easier but his towering header, from another Kirkpatrick corner, whistled past the post.
Hitchin’s assault was relentless and the returning Jonny McNamara, back on loan at Top Field from National League South side Hemel Hempstead Town after a summer move south, saw a snap-shot saved by Comas.
Langley gave themselves an even bigger mountain to climb on the 70th minute as Toomey saw red for an expletive-filled rant.
It was not to be Langley’s day and Smith almost made certain of the points in the 79th minute but he pulled his shot wide of the far stick.
A second goal was to come as Connolly copied team-mate Toomey’s earlier antics inside the area and Wright did the honours once more.
Langley’s only real chance came in added time as Jerry Amoo raced around the back of the Hitchin backline but shot into the side-netting.
At the other end, Comas prevented it from getting even more embarrassing for the away side as he marvellously saved substitute Liam Brooks’ six-yard shot point blank.
Paul Hobbs’ side may not have conceded any more goals but there was one final nail in their coffin as Balogun left the field amongst confusion after taking the rap for Duku’s challenge on Spence, dismissed for a second yellow.
In the end a fairly comfortable afternoon for Hitchin who are now just two points off top spot.
Next up Cheshunt at home in the Herts Senior Cup semi-final on Monday night.