Walster fires Hitchin to all three points at promotion rivals Slough
PUBLISHED: 13:42 07 November 2016
Hitchin deservedly came away from the Southern League's match of the day with three points after their first visit to Slough Town's new home at Arbour Park.
A Ben Walster free-kick sealed the points for fourth-place Hitchin just after the break before the Canaries had to withstand a late onslaught from the home side who going into the match had been in second.
Hitchin’s starting 11 was unchanged from the previous Saturday’s win just up the road at Beaconsfield but the returning Mason Spence and Michael King were on the bench.
Hitchin forced Slough, who were looking to maintain their unbeaten home record, onto the back foot as the hosts had to clear off the line from an early corner.
A Callum Donnelly effort went closer to the corner flag than the goal but Mark Scott was then tested as he saved a Robbie Burns header from a Matt Lench cross.
While Hitchin’s approach work was lively, and they adapted well to Slough’s plastic pitch, the Rebels were looking to find the previous week’s hat-trick hero Elijah Adebayo.
He was well watched by the Canaries’ defence and instead it was James Dobson who forced the first save from Michael Johnson.
Callum Donnelly found his way into the book after a foul on Nathan Webb at the start of a running exchange between the two players and the referee.
The hosts then went close to opening the scoring as a Dobson free-kick hit the post. It fell to Adebayo who was well placed in front of goal but he skied his effort over the bar.
Canaries’ pace and movement threatened the home defence with Kane Smith firing across goal - and Burns just unable to meet the ball at the far post - before Lench robbed a defender and hit the side netting from an angle after rounding Scott.
If the concern was that the approach play needed a goal, unlike last week the deadlock was broken early in the second half.
On 49 minutes, a decision was finally given in favour of Donnelly about 25 yards from goal. Walster stepped up and curled the free-kick into the corner of the net past the diving Scott.
After Nathan Webb had been carded for his part of the running battle, Slough upped the tempo as Hitchin dropped deeper.
Charlie Moone sent in a swerving shot that veered just high and wide while Johnson did well to gather a header from Guy Hollis after a Dobson free-kick.
Hitchin continued to look dangerous on the counter and Lucas Kirkpatrick fired past the far post after he was set up by Lench and Josh Bickerstaff. Burns also tested Scott with a curling shot.
Both sides brought in fresh legs but the Hitchin defence soaked up the pressure that Slough threw at them, and Johnson was secure behind them, gathering from Adebayo and substitute Lewis Putman.
Putman - who grabbed the winner in this fixture last season - skipped through the Hitchin defence but his final shot was weak.
Hitchin broke well after a Slough dead ball and substitute Liam Brooks nearly got onto the end of the clearance but Scott prevented a decisive second goal, and was then called upon again to clear at the feet of Smith.
Slough continued to ramp up the pressure and pushed all 11 players forward for a final series of nail-biting corners. Indeed Scott connected with one ball and forced Johnson into a save.
The defence also kept out efforts from Putman and Moone before the final whistle signalled a well-deserved win to round off a fine team performance.
The Canaries can now look away from the league to the friendly with Arsenal on Thursday evening and an FA Trophy derby at Biggleswade Town in the coming week.
Slough Town: Scott, Fraser, Stonehouse (Dunn), Hollis, Hicks (Hewitt), Togwell, Dobson, N Webb, Adebayo, Moone, Harris (Putman). Subs: Smart, Gokmen
Hitchin Town: Johnson, Wright, Walster, Bickerstaff, D Webb, Rolfe, Smith, C Donnelly (Brooks), Kirkpatrick, Burns (B Donnelly), Lench. Subs: Coley, Spence, King.