Will Smudger lead Canaries to safety?

Brackley Town 3 Hitchin Town 1 NEIL JENSEN reports Mark Smith has become something of a messianic figure as far as Hitchin fans are concerned, but only time will tell whether he can prove to be the Canaries saviour in the coming weeks. Now 40 years old,

Brackley Town 3 Hitchin Town 1

NEIL JENSEN reports

Mark Smith has become something of a messianic figure as far as Hitchin fans are concerned, but only time will tell whether he can prove to be the Canaries' saviour in the coming weeks.

Now 40 years old, Smith is arguably fitter and a more skilled practitioner than many of his team-mates, and against Brackley, he was one of the best players on the pitch.

While Smith tried his hand at stopping and scoring goals, another new signing, Paul Barnes, stood watching his new club in action.

With Smith and Barnes, and possibly another new player, manager Darran Hay is building his team for a last roll of the dice this season.

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There are 15 games to go and Hitchin must win at least half of them.

After beating Bashley in midweek, the Canaries might have expected a strong showing at Brackley, but the home side got off to the perfect start.

Moses Olaleye fouled Scott Hadland and the same player netted from the penalty spot after just four minutes.

For a while, it looked as though Hitchin would get back on level terms.

Iuean Lewis was lively throughout the 90 minutes, and in the first period, he went close with a header.

But the Canaries' task was made doubly difficult in first-half added time when Jerome Anderson scored after Ricky Perks had stopped his first effort.

In the 55th minute, Anderson scored again, volleying home from close range.

Hitchin looked finished, but they were given the chance to stage a comeback in the 64th minute when Ricky Miller's shot was handled in the area. Jon Stevenson scored from the penalty spot.

Nine minutes later, Hitchin were awarded a second penalty, Miller being upended by Josh Green who was sent off. This time, Stevenson's kick was saved by Brackley keeper Richard Knight.

Late in the game, Mark Kenneford and Smith both had chances to score, but there was too much to do in too little time.

Canaries: Perks, Pepper, Mountford, Stevenson, Gilbert (Beale 65m), Smith, Lewis, Deeney (Mills 47m), Donnelly (Kenneford 69m), Miller, Olalaye.

Att: 262.

Ref: N Radford.

* The Canaries have signed former Boreham Wood midfielder Luke Gregson and expect to include him in their line-up this Saturday against Yate Town.

Gregson, 25, has also played for Langford, Arlesey Town and Stotfold.

Hitchin boss Hay said: "Luke's a strong player who adds height and power in the middle and he's also someone who can get on the scoresheet.

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