Basingstoke Town 1 – 0 Hitchin Town Saturday 24th February 2018
With a quite late understanding that the normal Home match reporter was unavailable for today’s game, the regular away match reporter took on the duty for today’s match report.
On a day when the sun was out but the wind-chill factor mean’t it was pretty nippy at the clubhouse end of the ground, Terry Brown set out his 13th placed team against a tough Hitchin team who were sitting in 12th place. Hitchin entering the day 4pts above us.
Pre-match news confirmed that Sam Smart was out with a hamstring injury and Michael Atkinson a late pull out due to cold/flu symptoms, Terry went with the following starting line-up; In goal Colm McAdden, a back four of Tim Wohlfiel, Guri Demuria, Shane Hollamby and Dan Bayliss, the midfield trio of Captain Charlie Kennedy, Dan Collier, George Bennett & Jack McKnight. Up front we had the returning Ben Wright alongside Sam Argent.
The bench consisted of Callum Bunting, Jordan Goater & Harry Long.
A minute’s silence was superbly observed before the start of the game for our academy player Harry Rice who tragically lost his life at the young age of 17 at the end of January.
With the Stoke team kicking with the strong wind towards the clubhouse end, very little action seemed apparent for the first couple of minutes of the game.
However, in the 4th minute Stoke win a free-kick 10yds inside Hitchin’s half. Bennett delivers a cross into the heart of the goalmouth, the ball is not cleared and it finds it’s way to Demuria, whose first-time volley maybe not struck perfectly finds the corner of the net with the Hitchin keeper struggling to get across to save it. Stoke take an early lead.
3 minutes later and Stoke are on the attack again, this time the ball is crossed but it beats everyone and it narrowly goes out for a goal kick.
A minute later (10) and the first Hitchin defender goes in the book after a heavy challenge on Sam Argent, causes a melee of players to get involved. There are calls for a red card, but it’s only a yellow. Bennett takes the ensuing free-kick whose ball floats across the face of the goal, McKnight has a free-header, but all he can do his head it straight towards the keeper who makes a comfortable save.
13 mins in and we win another free-kick in Hitchin territory. This time the ball is headed out for Stoke’s first corner of the game. The Bennett corner is floated in the middle of the penalty area and the ball is bounces around until the Hitchin No.5 makes a tackle on Argent. There are calls for a penalty but the ref baffles everyone by giving a free-kick to Hitchin.
Stoke continue to press and on 16 mins, Argent is fed down the right, he swivels past one defender and puts a cross which seems to be half hit but finds the centre of the goalmouth where Wright’s first-time shot flies wide.
18 mins and Hitchin have the first attack, as they break down our left, but eh Hitchin shot goes well-wide of the goal.
Hitchin have the next attack, but fail to get a shot away, as Hollamby makes a nice tackle on the edge of the box and Stoke are on the break. We attack down the left and McKnight cuts inside and forces a Hitchin defender to put the ball out for a corner.
Nothing comes from the corner, but we win a throw-in 15yds away from the goal-line. Bayliss, seems to be the long-throw expert and with the wind fully behind him the throw reaches the 6yd area, but it’s well defended by Hitchin.
26 mins in and Stoke still pressing win another free-kick about 30yds out. Wright steps up, his shot beats the ball, but the keeper is able to get across and make a full-length diving save, pushing the ball out for a corner. Nothing comes from the corner.
32 mins and Hitchin break quickly, but as they enter the box, the Hitchin striker loses control of the ball and Stoke are able to clear with ease.
38 mins and how are Stoke not two-up as a lovely cross-field ball Ben Wright free, he touches it once and then slides a lovely pass to Argent who is completely free, but he takes it first-time and his side-footed shot, somehow slides wide of the goal. The ball is now being changed, but that is no reason why Argent shouldn’t have put us two-up.
Then on 41 minutes Hitchin attack, but a Stoke player intervenes but hammers it against the Hitchin forward and rebounds to the next Stoke defender who does exactly the same and the ball is bouncing around our area. Hitchin, pick it up and the cross slides across the goalmouth with no Hitchin player close to it.
43 mins in and Stoke attack again, this time down the right, the Hitchin left back fails to clear it and Wright picks up the ball and crosses the ball to Argent, the half-come shot is blocked and the ball rolls to Bennett who is open, his side-footed shot hits the keeper’s legs and flies out for a corner. The corner is a poor one and Hitchin are able to clear.
On 46 mins and with very little action on either goal, the ref blows the half-time whistle.
No changes by Stoke at half-time and with worries with the strong wind against us as we attack the Town end in the second-half.
48 mins and we pick up from where we left off, as Argent wins the ball 25yds out, his quick turn and thinking, as he delivers a lovely cross into the penalty area finds a free Kennedy, but his first-time shot splays wide of the goal. Yet another missed opportunity to double our lead.
On 50 mins Hitchin attack and we put the ball out for a corner. The corner kick is a shocker, but somehow it rolls to the Hitchin left-back but he blazes it 20 yds over the bar.
52 mins in and the ref calls a halt to the proceedings, has a few words with the Hitchin No.14 and then produces a yellow-card. I assume it’s for something he has said to the ref?
54 mins in and Stoke play a decent one-two move between Argent & Wright, the ball breaks away from Sam, but falls to Bennett, but his tame shot flies into the stand behind the goal.
Hitchin attack again, but another wayward shot from 25yds out is dragged 10 yds wide of the goal.
57 mins in and another attack by Stoke down the left. Argent finds a gap and his cross looks to find McKnight at the far post, but takes a slight deflection from a Hitchin head. The ball is recovered by McKnight and he cuts down the right but his cross is blocked and put out for a corner. Bennett’s floating corner finds Bayliss, but his header falls a yard wide of the goal though the keeper and defender on the line had it covered.
61 mins in and Hitchin break down our right, a neat passing move has a Hitchin forward clear, but his shot is well saved by the outcoming McAdden.
The next five minutes is fought in midfield, until Hitchin win a corner, but McAdden claims the ball cleanly and any danger is stopped.
68 mins and Argent is put through, there is a tussle from the Hitchin No.2 and Sam goes down. The ref pulls out another yellow card and Stoke have a free-kick 25yds out. However, Wright’s corner although beating the two-man wall also is two yards wide of the goal.
Basingstoke make their 1st change as Wright is replaced by Callum Bunting.
Hitchin now seem to be pressing a little more and a deep cross to the far post is well cleared by Demuria. They attack again and a mix-up at the back, allows a Hitchin forward to break with ball, but his shot is well saved by the diving McAdden.
Stoke are still spending more time in the Hitchin half, but Hitchin are breaking with speed now and this time they win a free-kick, the ensuing corner is headed out for a corner by Bennett. This corner puts us under more pressure as we give a corner over the other side of the goal. This time the corner is poor and Hollamby hoofs it down the pitch.
As we enter the last minute of normal time, we are holding the ball in their half of the pitch.
The ref has added four minutes of injury-time, but the ball is being played by the dugouts around the halfway-line, with neither team able to mount an attack.
Hitchin attack again and the ball breaks to McAdden who wins the ball and then goes down injured. The game is held up for a minute, before he kicks it down the field, the ball is returned into our half and the ref has had enough and he blows the final whistle.
Final Score: Basingstoke Town 1 – 0 Hitchin Town
Another deserved win by Stoke, against a Hitchin team who were pretty poor today. Stoke now pull within 1pt from Hitchin with 12 games to go.
Up next is Kings Lynn away next Saturday.
Match Report by Martin French