This was a case of the result being all that mattered as an uneventful game saw Tahj Bell and his Hitchin Town teammates grab the three points with an 84th minute Gary Wharton goal.
Manager Mark Burke has often said that there are occasions when we need to win ugly and this was just such a game. A rock hard pitch meant unpredictable bounce and it was hard to play good football.
On top of this Hitchin were playing their 8th game in 17 days and it would be unfair to have expected anything other than a tired performance. Also Bedford has improved recently and they competed very strongly but to Hitchin's credit Bell was rarely troubled.
The team news was mixed with Lewis Rolfe fit to return and Simon Martin available but Michael King was missing and Garry Jones and Callum Donnelly suspended. Rolfe shot wide in the first minute and Martin headed over the bar after Dan Webb had headed across goal. For Bedford Jordan Davis shot wide while Bell made a good save from Kelvin Osei-Addo but in truth the first half was scrappy with too many misplaced passes from both teams.
Martin thought he had scored after 38 minutes when his shot was cleared off the line but half time arrived with the game goalless. Hitchin made a good start to the second period as Matt Lench and Charlie Smith both shot over the bar but neither keeper was being seriously tested. Nick Burtenshaw replaced Stuart Pearson after 78 minutes and soon after Sam Barker shot over the bar. Bedford did not look like scoring as Hitchin defended comfortably.
It seemed a goalless draw was inevitable but man of the moment Wharton added to his two goals recently with a fine strike from the edge of the box after Webb's cross had been cleared off the line with six minutes left. Hitchin looked in control to the end and made it six points in two games completing the double over Bedford.
So while the game will not live long in the memory the win is all that matters and Hitchin now have the luxury of no game for five days! The last game of the season will be really significant with Stourbridge needing a result to guarantee their play-off place and Hitchin aiming to finish as high in the league as possible.
Monday, April 21, 2014
Smith Scores in PS Kemi Win
Jonte Smith and his PS Kemi took on AC Oulu in a game of two halves, with AC Oulu winning the first half battle and the host team felt the rhythm of entering in the second half.
PS Kemi was also at a numerically dis-advantage that they were able to overcome.
Early in the match which was dominated by the Oulu transferred to 0-1 lead after 25 minutes when Dritan Stafsula bombed a shot from 20 yards out past the PS Kemi goalkeeper Jusa Impiön.
A couple of minutes later Impiö brought down Stafsula outside the penalty area and got a deserved red card.
Moments before the break PS Kemi had an opportunity to level the score, but AC Oulu’s goalkeeper saved Smith's penalty.
The second half began with PS Kemi taking a different approach, and it paid off in the 50th minute, a AC Oulu error in the middle of the field saw Smith go on a run taking on several defendders before finding teammate Lonsille Billy, who put the ball into the empty net.
In the 66th minute, PS Kemi went in front Thomas Tyystälä fought for the ball on the touchline and his pass found Jon Dollerylle, which saw him pull off the marker before blasting the ball pass a stranded goalkeeper.
Minutes before the end of the match Smith got his name on the score sheet. Smith stole the ball from a defender and drilled a shot from just inside the box making the final score 3 – 1.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Hall on the Bench As Burton Albion Win
Freddy Hall was an unused substitute as his Burton Albion teammates bounced back from their disappointing defeat at Northampton Town by sweeping Hartlepool United aside at the Pirelli Stadium in an entertaining 3-0 win. It was something of a landmark day as they fired in three goals at home for the first time this season and after Billy Kee had swept home the first midway through the first half Jimmy Phillips curled home just his second league goal of the campaign before Lee Bell lashed in his first of the season from a free kick just under 25 yards out.
Dean Lyness, as expected, replaced the injured Rob Lainton in goal with Hall taking his spot on the bench. Lee Bell returned in the center of midfield as Matty Palmer was rested to the bench. Alex MacDonald returned to the side on the right hand side of midfield as Jimmy Phillips switched to the left and Gary Alexander also slotted back in to the attack with Adam McGurk suffering with a groin problem.
Burton was quickly out of the blocks with Phillips putting an early chance wide after good work from Edwards. The ever reliable full back then had to do some excellent defending as a free kick came into the danger area and as it looked to be dropping for a Hartlepool player to drill home Edwards was there to complete a vital clearance.
Hartlepool were forced into an early change when their talented forward Luke James hobbled off after failing to shake off an earlier knock and that offered an opportunity for the experienced Marlon Harewood to return to the side after a spell out with injury.
After a few probing efforts Albion had the lead on 27 minutes. A long ball from his own half by Ian Sharps dropped just over the head of Alexander and fell beautifully for Billy Kee to sweep the ball under the body of Rafferty from six yards.
Kee was handed a chance to double his tally for the afternoon when Robbie Weir was bundled over just outside the box by Bradley Walker but he was just unable to get it up and over the wall and back under the crossbar.
Hartlepool were given the chance to exert some early pressure on the Burton defense when Phillips carelessly brought Duckworth down just outside the area and although the original free kick was cleared for a corner by Robbie Weir the resulting delivery was glanced wide by Sam Collins.
Again Albion did not have long to wait for a goal to come their way after a close miss and they had the comfort of a second goal on 57 minutes. Kee did well to hold the ball up inside the box and when the ball didn’t quite run for Weir he laid the ball into the path of Phillips who, from just outside the box, curled a superb shot past Rafferty who had no chance to stop it.
A slip at the back from McFadzean almost allowed Harewood in for a chance but he was forced to cross in low and Shane Cansdell-Sherriff on the cover was able to make sure that Lyness was able to clear things up.
Kee was close to a third for the Brewers on 65 minutes when he turned superbly inside the box but this time couldn’t get the connection he wanted sending the ball wide and the striker quickly sent a volleyed effort straight at a relieved Rafferty.
A quick double change for Albion came with ten minutes to go. Shane Cansdell-Sherriff limped off with what appeared to be a calf injury giving the opportunity for Marcus Holness to see out the clean sheet and Robbie Weir took a well-earned rest with Matty Palmer replacing him.
Gary Alexander earned his side a free kick twenty two yards out and up stepped skipper Lee BELL to rifle home an unstoppable effort for his first goal of the season.
A late shot from Pools substitute Jack Barmby almost threatened to ruin Albion's clean sheet but Lyness was able to hang on to the ball under his crossbar to complete a comprehensive win for Rowett's promotion chasers.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Bell & Hitchin Go Down in Cup Final
Heartbreak for Tahj Bell and his Hitchin Town teammates as a penalty shoot-out decided their fate as runners-up in the Herts Charity Cup.
It took just six minutes for Hitchin to take the lead. Lewis Rolfe initiated the move, finding space down the wing and putting a ball in to the box. Callum Donnelly swung his leg but mistimed and made no contact, with the ball finding its way through to Matt Lench. Lench's shot was blocked but Rolfe had carried on his run, capitalizing on the fall of the ball from the block and slotting home for 1 - 0.
The goal injected further life in to an already fast-paced start. Shots from Bishops Stortford's Ashley Miller and Hitchin's Callum Donnelly provided much entertainment, with Hitchin's Stuart Pearson creating excitement with a header that went over the crossbar.
Hitchin were the more dominant side, at times controlling the pace of the game with ease and Bishops Stortford's double substitution in the first-half may have been a reaction to their obvious threat. Hall and Baker replaced Costa and Akurang.
Hitchin keeper Bell made a great reaction save. Bishops Stortford's Jordan Brown made a fantastic run down the wing, putting in a late ball that took a deflection off Canary defender Alasan Ann. Bell did well to keep it out.
Hitchin missed an opportunity from a corner, when Donnelly and Martin caught the defense off-guard and played a short one at the edge of the box. Martin's shot, however, was off-target and the opportunity was missed.
Bishops Stortford were like a different team in the second-half, starting brightly with Ashley Miller having a couple of early chances. In the 60th minute they got their equalizer, when Hitchin's Alasan Ann gave away a penalty. Brian Woodall stepped up and scored.
The equalizer then had the Bishops Stortford team further determined and they were far the more forceful with numerous chances, although Hitchin weren't completely out of it. Donnelly and King linked up well on one occasion but Donnelly's shot was poor and good goalkeeping from Joe Wright denied Dan Webb on another.
Gary Wharton brought some much-needed life in to the Canaries' game - his pace causing all sorts of trouble for the Bishops Stortford defence. However, it didn't stop Hitchin from going down 2-1, a free-kick coming off of the post and Jake Hall slotting home to put Bishops Stortford in front in the 93rd minute.
It took just four minutes for Hitchin to get back in to the game. Michael King switched play across field to Matt Lench, who put the ball in to the box. The clearance fell straight to Sam Barker, who took a touch before firing in to the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
Gary Wharton was unlucky not to get a goal in the second-half of extra time, his work rate alone making him deserved of a score sheet mention. His first attempt came off the crossbar, with King following up with a shot that went wide. His second attempt was just as excruciatingly close and a huge let-off for keeper Wright, who mistakenly ran out but was relieved to see Wharton's shot go wide of the post.
It was an incredibly tense few minutes for both sides as extra time drew to a close but the closer it got to the final whistle, the more inevitable it was that this game was to be decided by penalties.
1. Lench - Hitchin - Goal 2. Church - Bishops Stortford - Goal 3. Smith - Hitchin - Miss 4. Johnson - Bishops Stortford - Miss 5. Jones - Hitchin - Goal 6. Richens - Bishops Stortford - Goal 7. Bickerstaff - Hitchin - Goal 8. Baker - Bishops Stortford - Goal 9. Ann - Hitchin - Miss 10. Woodall - Bishops Stortford - Goal
Friday, April 18, 2014
Wells and Huddersfield Draw Again
Wells Signing Autographs
Defender Bruno Saltor rescued a point for play-off chasing Brighton late on with his first goal of the season as they drew 1-1 with Nahki Wells and his Huddersfield Town teammates at the Johns Smith Stadium.
Trailing 1-0 to a resurgent Huddersfield, Spanish defender Saltor burst between two defenders in the box to fire home on 83 minutes.
The goal was set up by Lewis Dunk, who arguably should not have been on the field having earlier made two bad fouls.
Midfielder Oliver Norwood put Huddersfield, now without a win in 10 games, in front with an early rocket.
The Manchester United academy product drilled a free-kick low into the bottom right corner from 25-yards after just six minutes.
It came after Keith Andrews brought down Wells and is only the 18th goal Brighton have conceded away from home all season.
Norwood nearly repeated the trick from closer range on 61 minutes after Adam Clayton was brought down on the edge of the box.
Brighton's Dunk was lucky not be sent off for the foul on Clayton having been booked in the first half.
This time Norwood went for the top left corner, but Brighton keeper Tomasz Kuszczak parried and then a defender cleared.
The effort came in an intense spell of Huddersfield pressure in which Kuszczak, back after illness last week, twice saved Brighton.
He got down smartly to deny Adam Hammill on 60 minutes and then saved with his legs to keep out Sean Scannell.
Huddersfield had not won since thumping Barnsley 5-0 on March 1st and had lost their last three matches in a slump down the table.
The home side were denied a penalty on 22 minutes when Hammill robbed Saltor down the left, cut inside and was felled in the box.
Brighton, seeking a return to the top six, grew into the match and were twice denied an equalizer.
Paul Dixon made a last-ditch clearance to deny Dale Stephens after Leonardo Ulloa knocked down a free-kick.
Then Ulloa, Brighton's 15-goal leading scorer, had a bullet header from a Stephens corner on 26 minutes ruled out for a foul.
Stephens, who had already played against Huddersfield three times for Charlton this season, pulled the strings for Brighton.
He hit the roof of the net with a free-kick on 74 minutes and then took the corners which saw substitute Craig Mackail-Smith twice go close with headers.
There was a bizarre incident on 77 minutes in which Seagulls skipper Gordon Greer was booked for grappling with a Huddersfield coach.
The ball went out for a Brighton throw by the Town dugout, with the coach retrieving it and Greer going in to get it off him.
They came to blows on the touchline, with the Huddersfield man refusing to give Greer the ball and the defender trying to pull it out of his hands.
Both sides traded chances late on, with Wells and Scannell testing Kuszczak and Dunk seeing a header saved in stoppage time.