STILL SOME HOPE
Hitchin 1 Yeltz 1
23 April 2005
It was never going to be easy. The topsy-turvy season continues down to the wire as we could only draw at Hitchin, dropped down to 7th but still have a reasonable chance of getting into the end of season playoffs.
Dave's match report explains the details of a lacklustre performance on Saturday, but the situation now is this. We MUST win on Saturday against Team Bath at The Grove, and hope at least two of Merthyr, Hednesford, Bedford and Tiverton don't win (not that unlikely). Also, Bath are only one worse goal difference than us so a big win for them could put them above us. However with rumours of illegible players for Bedford even all this isn't clear! Calculators at the ready.
Obviously all we can do is win next week and hope for the best, but we've been in this situation before (when we won but unfortunately other results went against us!) but we WILL win on Saturday and for some strange reason I think we've going to be lucky.
Match Report from DJ
Hitchin Town: Wilmot; Baldry, Kidd (Lamacraft HT), Ayres, McCulloch, Cavill, Hassan, McMenamin, Sozzo, Lewis, Bridge. Unused Subs: Hill, Duffy, Mills, Burke
Halesowen Town: Taylor; Skidmore, Haywood (Johnson 13), Preston, Pope, Smith, Cowley, Moore (Baker 82), Haarhoff (Lamey 66), Amos, Forsdick. Unused Sub: Gayle.
Referee: C. Francis (Little Downham, Cambs) Attendance: 417
Injury-hit Halesowen dropped out of the play-off places after letting ineffective Hitchin off the hook by failing to hold onto a crucial lead.
A win would have put Halesowen up to 3rd and in the driving seat for home play-off game but Hitchin's equaliser meant Halesowen slipped to 7th place to join three other teams on 66 points. On the bright side, victory in the final home game against Team Bath would mean Halesowen skipping above any of the 4 teams above them that only manage a draw. Rumours also emerged that, subject to appeal, Bedford will be docked a point for an administrative irregularity. Clearly, once the disappointment of throwing away victory by gifting Hitchin one of the sloppier goals of the season had passed, there remained plenty to play for on the final Saturday of a season of twists and turns.
A disappointing game with both sides requiring points for different reasons at the opposite ends of the table started quietly with a total lack of early action. Dave Haywood limped off injured on 13 minutes, but the period of scrappy play continued until the first chance of the game in the 20th minute when Hitchin's Josh Sozzo hit a half-volley over the bar. A minute later home goalkeeper Richard Wilmot punched clear Alex Cowley's long throw-in. Halesowen then came to life and enjoyed a good spell of pressure in the 23rd minute when Jimmy Haarhoff crossed from the right but the Hitchin defence cleared off the toe of Simon Forsdick. After clever foot-work from Cowley and Haarhoff, the home defence then cleared another Forsdick effort off the line. On the half-hour, Steve Pope worked his way down the left wing to earn a corner, but Cowley's kick was taken well by Wilmot.
A long clearance from Wilmot found Sozzo in the 34th minute but substitute Karl Johnson tidied up and a minute after the interval Halesowen goalkeeper Chris Taylor blocked from Mark Bridge although the assistant referee had already flagged for offside.
Halesowen grabbed the vital lead in a game of few chances in the 52nd minute when Wilmot dropped the ball under pressure from Steve Pope from a long free-kick and the ball fell kindly for FORSDICK to side-foot home into the empty net from a wide angle. A minute later Forsdick broke down the left and set up Jason Moore to cross dangerously, but the ball ran across the Hitchin area without a supporting striker in sight and Halesowen missed the opportunity to increase the lead that their overall performance did not deserve.
The Yeltz surrendered the lead in the 60th minute when a disputed long free-kick from Chris McMenamin was missed by goalkeeper Taylor and BRIDGE headed home to guarantee safety from relegation for the Canaries.
Jaded Halesowen never looked like restoring the lead necessary to secure a play-off position and little was seen of their attack after Haarhoff was substituted in the 66th minute. Johnson's weak 25-yard shot was easily saved by Wilmot on 83 minutes but the hosts almost snatched a last minute winner when goalkeeper Taylor elected to head the ball clear and only managed to set up Aaron Cavill to launch a long range shot. However, Taylor raced back and redeemed himself by saving at the foot of the post.