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Saturday 16 December 2006
British Gas Business Southern League Premier
(match 18)
at Top Field, Hitchin.
BGB Southern League logo

Hitchin shrubbery

Hitchin Town


Gloucester City

New Tigers Badge: no-one knows why...

HT (1-2)

C.Dillon (9,53)
Hitchin home kitCity away kit
A.Sykes (20,42)
C.Thompson ©
L.Folds ©
(for 12, 76) S.Cretton
(for 3, HT) M.Duckett
(for 10, 83) G.Lamacraft
M.Fowler (for 5, HT)
A.Wilson (for 7, 81)


J.Cox (for 9, 28)
Hitchin: L.Folds (foul tackle 61), C.Williams (foul tackle 82)
City: D.Wilkinson (foul trip 39), M.Noakes (dangerous tackle 43)
Dismissals: none

T-Ender City MotM: Jamie Reid - like the equally impressive Sykes he's a player who looks much happier and more effective going forward.

grass trim rule

City will feel this was a good away point gained as they held the high-flying canaries of Hitchin in an open and entertaining 2-2 draw that could have seen either side snatch all the points amid some desperate last ditch defending on a difficult sticky pitch. The Gloucester side may have lacked a little of the strength and composure that saw them to victory at King's Lynn in the week, but this was a City side that retained much of that zest and commitment to gain a valuable and hard earned point. The unlikely hero in front of goal was the rejuvenatedAlex Sykes who is at last convincing the City fans of his talent and is enjoying his football to such an extent he even popped up at the far post to score the crucial second with his head.

Again City looked like they were set-up primarily to frustrate Hitchin and then harry them on the break. It all seemed to go well in the opening minutes with early Hitchin crosses being hoofed away and Sykes finding his range with a dangerously dipping 30 yard effort from a free kick. However things then went horribly awry as Ollie Barnes sloppily surrendered possession and Carl Williams broke quickly down our left and delivered a deep cross to the far post where Chris Dillon was able to bundle the ball in from close range despite the desperate close attentions of the recovering Barnes.

With City a goal behind early on it was always going to be interesting to see how the City tactics would change to respond. Despite the lone man up front this is a fluid formation that seems to suit many of our attack minded midfielders and City were quickly picking up far more of the ball and stretching a Hitchin side that didn't seem anywhere near as clever under pressure. City pulled level courtesy of a good Welsh header from a long ball that fell neatly into the path of Jamie Reid as he ran in from the right flank. Reid did well to scamper clear of the defence and tricked his way past the floundering keeper, but having done the tricky bit so well he then fluffed his shot and planted it onto the post. He must have been the happiest player on the pitch as Alex Sykes anticipated well and was in support to run in and reached the rebound first, putting the ball into the empty goal from close range.

Things were to get better for City as they exerted real pressure and the Canaries began to squeak. A good move between Mustoe and Noakes led to a Sykes cross that was only half cleared and Reid went close with a fierce drive from the edge of the box. However City were rocked when centre-forward Jason Welsh was felled after a clash of heads with Hitchin defender Stuart Hammonds. The Non-League Paper's columnist emerged with a bandaged head wound but Welsh was carried off on a stretcher. After initial concerns post-match reports are a little more positive and it seems that Welsh should be available again in around a week after having stitches to a cut on the head.

Jimmy Cox came off the bench to act as the new forward focus for the City attack, and adapted very well to the role showing hopeful signs of his improving form and fitness with a performance that was peppered with some good runs and sharp movement that caused the Hitchin defence real problems. A good Cox run from a Mustoe pass saw Tom Webb have a chance to send a cross shot high and wide, but although there were further good crosses from Reid and Mustoe neither found anyone in the box to make the crucial finish. However you could sense a City goal was due and it came when someone finally gambled on getting to the far post. It was another smart cross from Reid on the right and it was met by Alex Sykes who was slightly underneath the header but got it just right to loop the ball over the keeper but under the bar. Judging by his reaction it may just be the first header Syko's ever scored.

Hitchin came at City far more in the second half but although we were sometimes living on our nerves we defended with at least some pride. we showed some spirit not to collapse after the disappointment of the Hitchin equaliser that saw Dillon again on target from close range as he diverted in a low shot from Josh Sozzo. We could have edged back into the lead as City picked up a free kick after Jimmy Cox's run down the middle led him being sandwiched by home skipper Liam Folds who was booked for a pretty cynical block. He almost paid the price too as Sykes nearly sealed a hatrick with a dipping drive that slammed back off the Hitchin cross bar. Reid was first to the rebound and nearly netted the rebound but his shot was into a crowded goalmouth and seemed to hit Jimmy Cox on the back.

City's later efforts were more limited with an Ollie Barnes our best effort. However the City support was happy enough to see the team ride out the last 20 minutes as our defending was required to be more desperate on a very heavy, boggy and draining pitch. Neil Mustoe made a fine block in the penalty box while Matt Bath made a great diving save to keep out a Deeney short from distance. Chris Thompson made another good block at the far post to clear from nearly the goal line as were starting to look a little uneasy. Only luck prevented any attackers getting a finishing touch to a low drilled cross that whistled along the face of the City goal, but a sharp-eyed linesman was to be thanked for ruling out what Hitchin thought was another late winner for offside.


grass trim rule
T-Ender Match Snaps
City on tour Santas show their red and white away colours A worrying sight as Welsh is in the wars again
Wilko and Reid get busy in midfield
Hitchin keeper Rob Beckwith flaps at another City cross.

Team Selection:

After Tuesday's success there was little pressure on Tim Harris to change the side and the only change was enforced, with Tom Hamblin missing Shabir Khan came into the defence.

TBBM Said:

"Accept Bank Holidays" -sign on the Hitchin perimeter wall.
You can only imagine there is a sustained campaign intolerant of public holidays somewhere in North Hertfordshire.

Tactics Board:
The general system did well to survive the loss of Jason Welsh and the midfield did well to support Cox as a lone striker lacking in the same height and strength, but the loss of Khan with a groin problem left us a defender short and although Thommo filled in well we did get put under a lot more pressure in the second half as Hitchin forced us to again defend deeper than would be comfortable.
Anorak Corner:
Alex Sykes' brace puts him level with Aaron Wilson, Jody Bevan and Jason Welsh on five goals for the season, but despite being our joint second top scorer he has yet to score at home for City. His only Meadow Park goal was a screamer for Bath City in front of the T-End last February.
T-Ender Verdict

It would have been easy to dismiss that midweek win at King's Lynn as a one-off but again City showed a lot more passion and spirit to get a highly credible point at Hitchin. The home side's title hopes may be easy to scoff at but they are a very sharp side with lots of forward power and while we perhaps lacked a little of the defensive discipline that was so impressive on Tuesday night we did limit their opportunities until it got a bit ragged in the last 20 minutes. The new shape also seems to have freed many of our midfielders with Webb and Reid benefiting and Alex Sykes looking like a different player, certainly deserving of today's goals. The interesting part will come when we try and translate this system into a home game - will teams attack to enable us to find gaps on the break and if we revert to a more attacking shape can we still retain our new found strength. We may well find out on Boxing Day.

Highlights Elsewhere:

With several of the front runners still in Trophy action the SLP focus was on the other end of the table where two struggling teams had very different days. Halesowen beat bottom side Corby Town 1-0 and it was the final straw for the Corby directors who sacked manager Rob Dunion as a result. But Cheshunt look like performing another escape act with a hatrick from recently returned record signing Darrell Cox earned them an impressive 3-0 win over Chippenham. Banbury United's incredible away record came to an emphatic stop with Team Bath the unlikely spoilers with a 3-0 win at Twerton Park, while Cirencester continued Maidenhead's problems with a single goal enough to send the Magpies back down the M4 pointless.

Few SLP clubs did well in the Trophy although Mangotsfield will have been delighted to continue King's Lynn's problems with a Rob Claridge goal dumping the FA Cup heroes from the FA trophy. Merthyr will want to forget all about a visit to Conference side Stevenage that saw their normally resolute defence savaged to lose by an embarrassing 7-0 scoreline. Bath did better at Farnborough but must replay in the week after a 1-1 draw.

Other Match Reports:

Gloucester Citizen match report
Tiger Roar post-match Tim Harris interview
Hitchin Town website match report

Further Reading:

BGB Southern League Premier Results & Website
BGB Southern League Table

Referee: N.Field (Lilliput) City League Pos: 16th (=) City Form: DWLLLL

Ref Watch:

5 - Small in stature and small of mind, petty picking didn't help the game.

Attendance: 394    
Conditions: clear, bright and chilly
Lorry Score:


Match Report:
by t-towel

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