With Jamie Jackson still nursing his wounds following his accident on ice, young Charlie Fanner again took the ‘keeper’s jersey and continued to improve in confidence as the game went on, but unfortunately he had to face a spot kick after only eight minutes following a hand ball in the Slough defence. Hitchin defender Tony Fontenelle stepped up and gave the young custodian absolutely no chance.
Following their nine goal spree against Soham Town Rangers in their previous league fixture Hitchin looked likely to score again soon, but intelligent play by Slough saw the home team gradually make an impression and Hitchin were fortunate on two occasions when the run of the ball favoured Martin Bennett in the away goal just gathering the ball in the nick of time.
Another close call came when Danny Burnell pounced on the ball with Bennett off balance and a Hitchin defender just intervened in time as Burnell attempted to flick the ball home and seeing it climbing steeply over the crossbar to safety.
The game had evened out by this stage, and with six minutes remaining before half time Simon Martin collected a pass on the right wing and striding into the penalty area mis-directing his shot across the penalty area straight to the feet of Stuart Swift who struck the ball sweetly past Bennett to equalise.
The second half saw both sides quickly into their stride, and Fanner made two brilliant stops when the visitors looked odds on to score a second goal.
Not to be outdone. the Rebels kept Bennett on his toes as the game surged back and forth providing the sort of match that would surely grace Conference South in quality.
Midway through the second half Shaun Byrne stretched to reach a difficult ball only for Callum Donnelly to fall and roll agonisingly on the ground. Referee Phipps immediately pulled out a red card as Byrne pleaded his innocence, and off he went.
Film of this incident seemed coincide with the Slough player’s claim that he did not touch the Hitchin man, but that was that and the Rebels were down to ten men for the remainder of the game.
The final twenty minutes saw Slough roll up their sleeves and put their minds to salvaging a point. With ten minutes remaining on the clock Zak Burke struck the Slough upright with tremendous force, and Charlie Fanner made a brilliant reaction save as John Frendo looked certain to score with a tap in from three yards.
With a couple of minutes remaining the Rebels almost won the game with from a free-kick that was just cleared off the line with Bennett beaten, and that was the end of the excitement for the afternoon with supporters of both clubs returning home satisfied.
Following the final whistle the Hitchin Town officials were generous in their praise rating Slough as the best team that they have met during the first half of the season, and suggesting that the Rebels will be successful in the play-offs. We will have to wait and see what happens three months hence!
Hitchin Town Lineup
Bennett, Fontenelle, Gilbert, Wordsworth, Pepper, Lewis, Donnelly, Lee, Howell (Arlick), Frendo, Burke. Subs not used: Payne, Williams, Gregson, Haggerty.