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Hampton & Richmond Boro' (A)
Sat Dec 21
15:00

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Hampton & Richmond Boro' (A)
Sat Dec 21 15:00
The Vanarama National League South
2nd
37pts

Rebels' promotion dreams ended at Hitchin

| Play Off
Att: 602
Hitchin Town
Frendo (45, 59), Burke (53), Arlick (83)
4 - 1
Slough Town
Burnell (34)
Sean Sonner
In a repeat of last season's playoff semi-final, Slough travelled to Top Field, but could not produce the same result, with Hitchin eventually winning comfortably.

Dan Burnell had given Slough the lead with a close-range finish, but the real turning point of the game was a controversial penalty award against Danny Murphy on the stroke of half time, with John Frendo following up to score after Rob Bullivant had saved his spot kick.

This spurred Hitchin on in the second half and Zak Burke gave them the lead from distance before Frendo added a third, with Jamie Arlick completing the scoring to leave Hitchin looking forward to a final against Daventry on Monday and Slough to reflect on what might have been.

For Hitchin, of course, the result represents revenge for last season’s result at the same stage, when the Rebels defeated the Canaries 2-1 despite the Hertfordshire side picking up 100 points in the league campaign.

This time, the damage was done in the second half, though for large periods of the first, Slough had looked the more likely to progress to Monday’s final.

After a predictably tight opening quarter of an hour, Slough had the first sight of goal when Simon Martin seized upon a short back pass from John Wordsworth, and he rounded Bennett and shot goalwards, only for Wordsworth to dash back to clear away from the line.

Stuart Swift did well to block a dangerous looking shot from Howell, before the same player blasted harmlessly across the goal and wide.

A big spell of Hitchin pressure followed, but while the hosts were winning the corner count, they could not find a way through, and Slough almost caught them out at the other end as Simon Martin headed a corner over the bar from six yards.

However, almost out of nothing, Slough did take the lead with 34 minutes played. Sean Sonner launched a rocket of a long throw from the left touchline which somehow went all the way past the flapping Bennett and through to the far post, where a combination of a Hitchin defender and the lurking Dan Burnell resulting in the ball being bundled into the goal from virtually on the line.

Hitchin struggled to get their game going as Slough started to defend well as a unit, but were handed a huge slice of luck on the stroke of half-time with the award of a hugely debatable penalty kick. Midfielder Callum Donnelly looked to have run the ball out of play after a long run directly at the Slough rearguard, but with Danny Murphy looking to shepherd the ball safely through to Rob Bullivant, Donnelly ran into the Slough full-back and won his team a penalty – but only after referee P Harris had looked over to his assistant, with the referee having originally pointed for a goal kick.

Incensed by the decision, Slough players protested and after a long delay, John Frendo eventually stepped up to take the kick. Bullivant guessed correctly and blocked the shot, but the ball rebounded fortuitously back to Frendo, who nodded the ball into the bottom corner.

We may never know what would have happened if the kick had not been awarded, but there can be no doubt it affected the mindset of the Rebels players in the second half, and their anger at the decision appeared to affect their composure.

A free kick was flicked just wide by a Hitchin head as an early warning for Slough, but the hosts did take the lead after a quick throw out by Bullivant took his own players by surprise. The ball was seized upon by Zak Burke in midfield, who still had a lot of work to do, but ran at the Slough defence and found the bottom corner with a fierce shot from 30 yards.

Slough began to look shaky and hesitant as Hitchin pressed them all over the park. Six minutes later after the second goal, Frendo scored his second goal in what was a real hammer blow to the Rebels’ hopes. This time, the prolific striker hit a fine volley after Richard Howell’s free kick was knocked down by Burke, leaving Bullivant no chance.


Ieuan Lewis and Louis Lee went close to burying Slough with further goals, while for Slough, the frustration spilled over at times after some unusual refereeing decisions, with Paul Coyne booked for dissent.

Slough felt they had a better shout for a penalty kick as a Hitchin boot went in at head height on substitute Ben Abbey as he looked to win a header, but again the referee saw nothing wrong with the challenge.

Nothing was going right for Slough by now, and Sean Sonner had an effort ruled out by the assistant’s flag as he tapped in Stuart Swift’s drilled free kick.

With seven minutes remaining, moments after Ben Porter replaced Murphy in a final roll of the dice, the scoring was complete as Hitchin scored a fourth which reflected their second half dominance. Substitute Jamie Arlick was fed by Howell and his shot was deflected past Bullivant and into the corner of the net.



Hitchin Town Line up

Bennett, Fontenelle, Gilbert, Wordsworth, Bickerstaff, Howell, Lee, Donnelly (Payne), Lewis, Burke (Arlick), Frendo. Subs not used: Haggerty, Gregson, George.

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