HITCHIN TOWN 1-2 TIVERTON TOWN
Such is the Yellows recent form that muted mentions of a place in the play-offs this season may not be as daft as they might seem, four wins and two draws in the last six matches has Tivvy sniffing at the coat-tails of those who currently sit above them. Goals at the end of the first half from Jordan Rogers and Levi Landricombe had the Yellows in control and on course for a fifth straight victory, in probably the last meeting of the sides for a while with the proposed geographical restructuring of the leagues, over their Hertfordshire hosts before Hitchin captain Dan Webb set hearts fluttering, with a stoppage time goal at the end of the second half, to set up a grandstand final few minutes but Tivvy held firm. Unfortunately though, the match is most likely to be remembered by the majority of the bumper six hundred plus crowd for events that unfolded as early as the eighth minute, Owen Irish red-carded for his reaction to an off the ball offence with Hitchin forward Brett Donnelly, who was also dismissed for his part in what followed.
Whilst a healthy percentage of Premier Division fixtures had fallen foul of recent poor weather, a huge amount of credit must go to the Hitchin Town ground staff for getting the pitch into any sort of playable condition and prevent the Yellows from having to make yet another cross country, mid-week trek. The Yellows lined up as they had done in the previous fixture versus Frome Town, the returning Callum Hall had to settle for a place on the bench while the hosts welcomed the return of both goalkeeper Michael Johnson and captain Dan Webb. Any early football action was quickly forgotten when Irish and Donnelly, who had already received a stern lecture from referee Alistair Nilson for a rash challenge on Nick Hurst, clashed off the ball after contesting a Ben Walster cross and were both subsequently, and correctly, dismissed for their parts in what had happened and after the ensuing melee of players and staff from both sides trying to act as peace makers, the match was almost abandoned after the match officials lost control but with order restored and both managers urged to `restore calm` amongst all involved, some eight minutes later, game on again.
Levi Landricombe blazed high, Jonny McNamara shot narrowly wide and eventual Man of the Match Liam Armstrong saved well from Walster as both sides started to create chances before the Yellows took the lead, Jordan Rogers firing high in to the roof of the net, left footed from 12 yards after a partially cleared corner fell to him and then one became two for the Yellows deep in to first half stoppage time, after former Watford midfielder Matthew Spring had almost brought the hosts level instantly when he clattered an upright with a long-range effort, when Levi Landricombe raced clear onto Jamie Shorts through ball and finished clinically past Johnson for league goal number twenty-three.
Hitchin spent large periods of the second half camped in the Yellows half, seeking a way back in to the match, with Tivvy seemingly content to defend and catch the hosts on the break. A tactic that nearly paid dividends throughout the period as chances for both Landricombe and Rogers came and went to further extend their personal tallies and the Yellows advantage but as legs tired, the greater the threat from the hosts became. Armstrong again saved well, from tricky winger Trey Charles as well as to deny Spring late on and Josh Bickerstaff was brilliantly challenged by Tom Gardner, Hitchin appeals for a penalty waved away, as the hosts cranked up the pressure, pressure that they thought they had been rewarded with when McNamara bundled home from a corner only to be denied after Armstrong was fouled in the build-up. They did, however, finally register in the first minute of four to be added on when returning captain Dan Webb climbed highest from another corner to power home a header for what turned out to be only a consolation.
Tiverton: LIAM ARMSTRONG, Jamie Short, Nick Hurst, Owen Irish, Ben Mammola, Tom Gardner, Tom Bath, Michael Landricombe, Jordan Rogers (Callum Hall 74), Levi Landricombe (Jared Lewington 74), Scott Rogers.
Goals: Jordan Rogers 43, Levi Landricombe 45+4.
Report by: Simon Ellis