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Saturday 25th Nov. Evo-Stik Southern Premier Frome Town 3 Hitchin Town 4

After a poor first half had seen them trailing 3-1 at half time and going down to ten men in the 70th, a spirited fight back saw Frome draw level at 3-3 in the 79th, but straight from the re-start, Hitchin made it 4-3 and despite Frome’s goalkeeper Kyle Phillips going close at the end, Hitchin held on for the three points.

After Marcus Mapstone had been forced off early with a hamstring tweak during the 4-1 loss at Redditch in the week, he was named to start the match, but with the problem recurring during warm up, Mitchell Page took his place in the team as Mapstone moved to the bench.

With Ben Morgan not making it to the match, Frome’s central defence was now midfielder Chas Hemmings and left back Sam Teale, and with Hitchin winning the toss and choosing to play with the low sun shinning straight into the eyes of the Frome defence, it was potentially going to be an awkward first half for the hosts.

The first ten minutes were even, with both sides carving out half chances. Ollie Knight twice made it to the dead ball line and almost found the killer pull back ball, and with Phillips having to twice make low saves to shots from distance, it was honours even. But then Hitchin took the lead in the 13th as a left wing attack forced Phillips to come out and save low, but as the ball rebounded from him, it was worked across the box to Elliot Bailey who found the corner of the net from just inside the area.

The match now turned into a fairly even midfield battle, with both sides packing the centre ground and struggling to create chances. Frome were looking the more likely to score next, with Sam Teale heading a corner over the bar and Jake Jackson finding space on occasion. But following a period of home pressure, Hitchin made it 2-0 in the 33rd as a corner was played short and Josh Bickerstaff hit a hopeful left foot ball across the Frome area and it somehow evaded everyone and bounced low into the far corner.

Two minutes later, Hitchin made it 3-0 as a high bouncing ball came down in the sun, totally deceived the Frome defence and presented Connor Vincent with a gift that he gleefully dispatched into the far corner from just inside the Frome box.

At this stage, Frome were never three goals worse than Hitchin, it was just that Hitchin had taken every chance and every half chance that had presented itself. However, the hosts had a glimmer of light just before half-time as Jon Davies swung his left leg back to shoot, only for that leg to be taken away from him. The referee correctly awarded the penalty and Davies produced a perfect spot kick right into the corner, with Mike Johnson going the wrong way.

An early goal for Frome at the start of the second half would have made a come-back very possible, and to their credit, they came out and gave it a good go. But Hitchin looked resilient as they massed their defence,  worked hard to frustrate the Frome attacks, and they also looked dangerous on the break, with only an excellent Joe Raynes’ last ditch tackle in the 62nd foiling one of these raids.

Controversy erupted in the 70th as Frome’s Mitchell Page seemed to be fouled on the far side, but as the referee ran across he then seemed to show Page a straight red, apparently indicating use of an elbow as the reason. Frome now had a mountain to climb, and with Frome’s good start now petering a bit, the match looked almost a certain defeat.

However, the loss of a man seemed to galvanise Frome and the match entered its best phase, with both sides throwing caution to the wind and producing a very open match. In the 77th, Frome made it 3-2 as George Miller swung a right wing free kick to the far post and Chas Hemmings climbed above everyone to head the ball back across the goal and in at the far post to make it very interesting.

It became even more interesting two minutes later as Miller took another free kick from almost exactly the same place, but this time it seemed too close to Johnson, until the keeper fumbled and a shot was deflected for a corner. As Davies swung the corner in, Hemmings headed back and Miller was on hand to hammer the ball into the net to make it 3-3.

Unfortunately, the home crowd’s celebrations were immediately cut short, as Hitchin attacked straight from the restart and a neat interchange of passing allowed Vincent to score his second of the game, with a rasping shot from just inside the Frome area.

Frome brought on forward Ryan Bath in place of defender Kris Miller in the 85th as they searched for the equaliser, but Hitchin were now proving adept at holding onto possession and keeping the ball in the Frome half. The nearest Frome came to snatching the improbable equaliser was in the 91st minute when goalkeeper Phillips came up for a corner and the ball found its way to him at the far post. But his volley missed the target and despite Phillips coming up twice more in the final minutes, neither side could find another goal and Hitchin took home all the points.

Chas Hemmings  was awarded the H&B Tyres Man of the Match Award by match sponsors Special Effect and with his goal and a lot of work at the back, it was a just decision.

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