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Hitchin Town 1 Merthyr Tydfil 0 NEIL JENSEN reports THIS may not have been the most exhilarating game seen at Top Field this season but Hitchin s 1-0 win against Merthyr may be the most vital three points the Canaries will pick up. Darren Salton s men hav

Hitchin Town 1 Merthyr Tydfil 0


THIS may not have been the most exhilarating game seen at Top Field this season but Hitchin's 1-0 win against Merthyr may be the most vital three points the Canaries will pick up.

Darren Salton's men have been in freefall for weeks and have lost half their team in the process.

But a spirited performance, a visible improvement on the previous home game against Banbury, was enough to see of a lacklustre Merthyr team.

The only goal came from the penalty spot, however, which raises increasing concerns about Hitchin's firepower.

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This means the Canaries have scored just one goal in open play in 11 league games and that was scored by now departed striker Chris Dillon.

There were plus points for Hitchin in the form of goalkeeper Rob Beckwith and teenage striker Scott Orphanou who ran tirelessly all afternoon.

Merthyr opened well and had two chances before Hitchin found their rhythm. Chris Collins had a shot blocked by Beckwith and Craig Lima had a header that sailed just over the bar.

Orphanou's determination led to Hitchin being awarded a 12th minute.

From his challenge, Merthyr defender Darren Davies handled in the area and Martin Standen netted from the penalty spot for the second consecutive home game.

Merthyr almost levelled on the stroke of half-time with a shot from Craig Moses that was pushed onto the post by Beckwith.

In the early minutes of the second half, Gary Wharton went close with a header and a free-kick by Davies was well handled by Beckwith. Tony Bird also tested Beckwith a first-time shot from the edge of the area.

Hitchin failed to trouble the Merthyr defence for most of the 90 minutes but the points were welcome and may just be enough to keep them away from danger.

Canaries: Beckwith, Childs, A Scanlon, Cretton, Frater, Deeney (P Scanlon 73m), Williams (Pugh 52m), Lamacraft, Standen, Jaggard (Cunnington 62m), Orphanou.

* Members of Hitchin Town's successful side from the late 1960s were among the former players that attended the latest Players' Reunion at Top Field on Friday.

Roy Cutler and Bernie Gogan who formed a formidable front partnership during the season that Hitchin finished runners-up in the Isthmian League - scoring 45 of the team's 67 league goals - spoke with affection about their time at Hitchin.

Cutler recalled the coach of that side, Vince Burgess. "Vince was a charming man and to some extent, he created a charming side. It was a special time in my career as a player," said Cutler.

Gogan joked that his partnership with Cutler involved him taking considerable punishment from defenders. "Invariably I would be laying in the mud, battered by a centre-half after knocking the ball on......only to look up to see Roy tapping the ball into the net."

The infectious duo, known as the 'terrible twins', captivated the audience as they did as players.

John Brookes and John Ashworth, both of whom skippered Hitchin during the period, spoke of the privilege of playing for the club at that time.

Brookes, who travelled from Wales for the event, said the 1968-9 season was a "wonderful experience" although he missed the London Senior Cup triumph through injury.

Ashworth, one of the most celebrated players ever to wear a Hitchin shirt, spoke of his "enormous respect" for Burgess.

The former England Amateur international recounted one humorous memory of his brief stay at Hitchin.

"Charlie Townsend, just after he joined us stopped in midfield, sat on the ball and berated the team for not running."

Townsend was another of the 1970 team to attend. Also an England international, Townsend scored a spectacular goal early in the London Senior Cup final.

Maurice Howkins, also in that line-up, remembered it well. "I said to Charlie, 'nice goal', to which he replied, 'beginner's luck!".

Brian Williams, who assisted Burgess in 1970 and later went on to manage Hitchin for five years, said the greatest moment of his time at the club was also the biggest disappointment.

"Reaching the second round of the FA Cup in 1973-4 was a great achievement, but losing to Boston and missing out on a possible tie with Derby County was a bitter blow."

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