Keeper blunder hands Hitchin the points
PUBLISHED: 09:49 31 January 2011 | UPDATED: 16:23 31 January 2011
Canaries 16 points clear and 26 games unbeaten
Hitchin Town 2 Bedworth Untied 1
Titles are won in many ways’ lucky wins, titanic struggles, great comebacks and ground-out victories when all looked lost – as well as the odd emphatic win.
In a season that has already had its share of emphatic triumphs – witness the Canaries’ nine-goal haul against Soham, the 7-0 win at Northwood and the sight of Hitchin going “nap” on several occasions – a narrow and unexpected win against Bedworth was more than welcome.
With three minutes remaining, Hitchin looked set for a second consecutive home draw and the alarm bells, while not exactly clanging, were starting to vibrate.
But then Callum Donnelly – arguably the Canaries’ most consistent player this season – turned, shrugged aside a challenge and sent a tame shot towards goal and Bedworth ‘keeper James Martin fumbled and allowed the ball to skid off his gloves and the game was won.
This was not a vintage performance, but it edged Hitchin closer to the end of the season and made it 26 games unbeaten.
It started reasonably well with Richard Howell’s free kick tipped against the bar by Martin, but although Hitchin had the upper hand they had to wait until the 34th minute for a goal.
John Frendo dribbled into the area, played to Donnelly and his ball across goal was followed in by man-of-the-moment Zak Burke.
Hitchin were only ahead for five minutes, though, as Jordan Nadat levelled at the second attempt after his first shot was blocked.
At the interval, there were a few worried expressions – heads were shaking at the inability of the Canaries to make hay while the sun was metaphorically shining on a freezing day.
The second half didn’t inspire, with Bedworth’s Easter Island defence soaking up the pressure and the front men looking a little dangerous on the break.
But Frendo had a couple of efforts that suggested better was to come; a header and a volley, and Jamie Arlick seeing a goalbound shot cleared off the line.
Bennett had to be at his best to stop a long range shot from Bedworth substitute Kurtis Mewins and then Ben Thackeray missed an open goal with his header.
All was not lost, however, for Donnelly’s unexpected winner sent the Top Field faithful wild with excitement.
Fortunately, Martin only had three minutes to endure the taunts of the home crowd after his blunder.
But there was still time for a scare for Hitchin – Mewins hit the top of the crossbar with just seconds remaining.
So, a difficult week for Hitchin on their own turf, but they still managed to increase their lead at the top and are now 16 points clear.
Hitchin: Benntt, Fontenelle, Pepper, Gilbert, Smith, Lee, Howell (Gregson, 76), Donnelly, Burke, Frendo, Lewis (Arlick, 46). Subs: Haggerty, Payne, Williams.
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