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Hitchin Town 1-2 Kingstonian

After September's harrowing trip to Brockenhurst, it was with some trepidation that the Kingstonian fans travelled north to Hitchin for the first match in this season's FA Trophy. Although there have been signs of a revival of late, nobody in a hooped shirt was under any illusions that a home tie with either Uxbridge or Cirencester was a foregone conclusion.

Top Field

The depths of K's squad were severely tested by the fact that the FA's competitions have room for five substitutes, yet somehow the bench was filled up - with Mark Jones stepping down from the first eleven in place of debutant Liam Garman. Jonathan Leacock and Liam Collins also switched places - presumably all in aid of boosting the "average height" statistic.

The match almost started in the perfect way for the Trophy-holders-but-one. Greg Ball did well to win a corner on the left, Danny Bolt swung it in and Peter Barnsby's header (below) was pushed up and onto the bar by goalkeeper Nick Webb. In fact Kingstonian looked by far the better of the two sides in the early stages. Ball was again involved when he set up Dave Clarke on the right, whose cross was headed back out to the centre forward by Jon Bone. Ball chested down, but disappointingly sliced his shot well wide from the edge of the box.

I was there - where did everyone else get to?

Cliff Akurang - who ran rings around K's in the September league meeting - forced Lance Key into a save when his volley headed towards the bottom left-hand corner of the net. Yet the goalkeeper required the services of his defence when the next shot came in - Billy Mead it was who hacked the ball off of the line after Matt Nolan's shot was deflected goalwards by Barnsby.

At the other end, Danny Bolt was finally starting to show the form which everybody has been waiting for, and he almost provided the opening goal for David Sadler when his cross was headed marginally wide just before the half-hour mark. And not a minute later it was the number eight himself who came close, shooting inches past the post after good work from Clarke and Collins.

Bashiru Alimi was having another solid game in the midfield, and it was his pass which set Sadler free not long before the break. After his brace last week the centre forward was playing with a lot more confidence, but unfortunately this didn't help him keep his shot down as he blasted this chance over Webb's bar. Bolt did likewise after he had again been set up by Alimi, and so at the break the scoresheet was still disappointingly empty.

They're behind you...

Mark Jones rejoined the fray for the second half, but he hadn't even touched the ball when K's belatedly took the lead. A foul on Clarke was correctly punished with a free-kick on the right wing, Bolt sent a cross in and Greg Ball rose to perfectly plant a header beyond the dive of Webb. He tried to find his brother to help him celebrate, but was disappointed to find that he was still in the bar...

Jones did get a touch just a moment later, but it was a woeful piece of "control" which set up Carl Williams perfectly on the edge of K's box. Yet Lance Key showed his importance once again with a fine save diving low to his left to prevent the instant equaliser.

Why are you looking at me?  They're attacking over there...

Bolt forced Webb into a great save of his own when his left-footed shot looked destined for the top corner, before Hitchin finally beat Key. Shaun Marshall played in Stuart Beevor whose weak shot just about went past the goalkeeper's outstretched arm. Yet it didn't have the pace to cross the line, which meant that it was a race between Mead and Nolan to see who would get there first. Kingstonian's right-back just about got there and hacked the ball away into safety, saving his side for the second time.

Yet he couldn't make it a hat-trick on 69 minutes. Nolan picked the ball up on the left, crossed to the near post, where waiting was Marshall to flick the ball into the other side of the net for the equaliser. It was a goal that had been coming for a few minutes, yet had K's taken their early chances it wouldn't have mattered so much.

Leacock and Ronnie Green were introduced in place of Collins and - somewhat strangely - Sadler, as K's tried to find the goal which would prevent the need for a Tuesday night replay.

Shots were by now coming in from all over the place. Ball shot wide, Bolt forced a save, Marshall hit the bar at the other end and even Billy Mead got in on the act when he fired over after a good run by Leacock. Yet by now we were almost into injury time and as Hitchin attacked on the left it looked to be the last chance of the game. Substitute Rob Kean beat Mead, crossed into the middle and found Marshall again. His turn on the edge of the box allowed him to get a shot in, and the K's defence was relieved to see it spin just wide.

Yet for some reason that wasn't enough. Dave Clarke found Leacock on the right wing and the youngster set off on a run from the half-way line. The Hitchin defence dropped off and dropped off, and all of a sudden he was on the edge of the box in sight of goal. Ronnie Green was up in support and a stab sent the ball through the square defence to him. Appeals for offside were turned down, and with a flick of his right foot, Green sent the ball under the goalkeeper's body and sent K's into round two. Not a minute later the whistle went.

The home side may well feel hard done by being dumped out in such a cruel way, but on chances created Kingstonian should have won this match with an hour gone. That they didn't is something of a worry, but the fact that they battled on until the end more than makes up for it. Roll on Uxbridge or Cirencester - maybe the season isn't quite over yet.

Sat 3rd Nov 2001
Top Field
FA Trophy 1st round
Hitchin Town1
Ball, Green
1Lance Key
2Billy Mead
3Liam GarmanCautioned16
4Peter Barnsby
5Max Hustwick
6Bashiru Alimi
7Dave Clarke
8Danny Bolt
9Greg Ball
10David Sadler12
11Liam Collins14
12Ronnie Green10
13Adrian Jones
14Jon Leacock11
15Sean Thurgood
16Mark Jones3
Man of the Match
Bashiru Alimi
Bashiru Alimi
Match Report By
Gary Ekins