In the bleak midwinter, Hitchin’s trophy exit

SUDDENLY, the FA Trophy is important once more. With non-league action suspended, FA Trophy games have been allowed to continue, although goodness knows if the competition will be allowed to continue to its conclusion.

With last season’s final between Harrogate and Concord Rangers still outstanding, this year’s FA Trophy is in full flow. Hitchin Town versus Peterborough Sports was an interesting match-up as both teams are in the same Southern League division. It’s bizarre that if this was a league fixture, it would not have taken place on December 12. However, the football world is as vague as the real world when it comes to the pandemic, but you couldn’t help feeling we were all dancing on a volcano as we watched a mere football match.

Precautions have been stepped-up at Hitchin – “constant learning process” – but strangely, nobody wears a mask inside. This is in line with events elsewhere, but it seems strange that a large gathering of people – there were around 400 at this match with a fair contingent from Peterborough – can mingle without some form of protection.

As for the events on the field, it was compelling entertainment, by far the best game I have seen at Hitchin in a while. But, from the home team’s perspective, it highlighted their lack of physique and solidity. Peterborough Sports were the more accomplished team, faster, stronger, more organised and, dare I say, more “professional”. Hitchin looked good flowing forward, but at the back and in the centre of midfield, they were a little ragged. Up front, the blond Callum Stead looked a willing horse, but he lacked strength. By contrast, the visitors had muscle and savvy. You couldn’t fault Hitchin’s commitment, but it looked like men versus boys at times.

Peterborough Sports won emphatically by four goals, although the scoreline was harsh on the Canaries, who mounted a comeback early in the second half after going in for their half-time cuppa rather unfairly two goals down. A forlorn penalty appeal, Stead falling in the area as if he had been tripped, might have change events if it had been given, but Peterborough soon emphasised their superiority once more.

The size of Hitchin’s task had become obvious as early as the eighth minute, the impressive Lewis Hilliard firing into the roof of the net from an acute angle. Similarly, their second goal in the 45th minute was equally eye-catching, Deon Sembie-Ferris, an excellent player on this showing, finishing in style after receiving the ball on the right flank.

After Peterborough had weathered Hitchin’s early storm after the restart, Sembie-Ferris scored again in the 68th minute, cutting inside on the left and shooting low past Charlie Horlock, who really should have done better.

By the time Peterborough scored their fourth goal through Dan Jarvis, Hitchin were beaten and crestfallen, not to mention agitated. 

How times have changed – at the start of January, Hitchin won 4-0 at Peterborough Sports’ Lincoln Road ground. Hitchin have appointed a club chaplain, it might be worth seeking  some divine intervention before they start playing league games again!

Photos: Peter Else

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