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HITCHIN 0-1 TOWN

16 July 2012

Watkins hits winner in pre-season opener

A fine finish from Adam Watkins three minutes before half-time got the Town's pre-season underway with a win.


The midfielder fired home first time after taking Jake Howells' deflected left-wing cross in his stride and it proved to be enough on a comfortable night for the Hatters.


The Hatters began with three new signings in the starting XI with Ronnie Henry skippering the side. Scott Rendell and Yaser Kasim were joined by a familiar face on trial in goal in the shape of Dean Brill.


In front of a decent following of Town supporters who had made the short trip up the A505, it was the visitors that got off on the front foot.


Half-a-chance came striker Rendell's way when he headed wide Stuart Fleetwood's cross on 11 minutes before the same duo combined two minutes later saw Hitchin clear their lines.


Hitchin's foray's forward were few and far between but the Canaries thought they had claims for a penalty on 16 minutes when John Frendo was hauled down in the box by Janos Kovacs but the officials remained unmoved.


A minute later the Town should have got their noses in front when a fine move down the right saw Andre Gray worm his way into the box to cross for Howells. But, after his header was palmed away by the goalkeeper, Gray's diving header from close range was cleared off the line.


Gray went close yet again when firing a shot straight at the keeper on 20 minutes before the impressive Kasim combined well with Rendell to tee-up Watkins to fire over two minutes later.


As the Town continued to dominate, Greg Taylor, operating at left-back, did brilliantly to reach a cross-field pass from Janos Kovacs to stride forward but he could only drive a shot into the arms of the home goalkeeper on 26 minutes.


However, a minute later, the Hatters were indebted to Brill for a superb reaction save when left exposed after Frendo received a square pass when unmarked six yards out following a left-wing raid from the hosts.


That escape woke the Town up: Rendell drilled a shot just over the bar on 35 minutes having beaten his man three times over for skill and then Fleetwood was denied the opening goal three minutes later when his controlled, curling shot was parried by the goalkeeper.


But the Town's wait for a goal soon came to an end, three minutes before the break. Howells was sent haring down the left by Taylor and his deflected cross was met first-time by Watkins who finished with aplomb from 10 yards.


Boss Paul Buckle, who watched on from the directors' box for the 90 minutes, rung the changes at the break, making nine substitutes.


Two of those changes combined three minutes after the restart when Dan Walker's surging run and cross found  trialist Harry Crawford but the former Southend man's header dropped just wide.


The game was being played exclusively in the Hitchin half and, after an Alex Lawless shot narrowly cleared the crossbar shortly before the hour, the chances rained in on the hosts' goal in the final quarter of the game.


JJ O'Donnell and Walker combined well on 73 minutes that ended with Aaron O'Connor curling a shot just wide before Lawless sent another shot over two minutes later.


It was almost 2-0 on 76 minutes when O'Donnell saw a fine daisycutter destined for the bottom corner turned behind for a corner.


Still the chances came for the Hatters with Crawford unlucky to see a shot from the edge of the box rebound off of the crossbar on 77 minutes before trialist Matthew Robinson, fresh from the Leicester City academy, saw a low curling effort well saved by the keeper with nine minutes left.


The Town continued to boss possession in closing stages but couldn't add to the score in what was a comfortable first outing of pre-season.


Town first half: Brill, Henry, Beckwith, Kovacs, Taylor, Howells, Watkins, Yaser, Gray, Rendell, Fleetwood.


Second half: Brill, Ann, Rowe-Turner, Kovacs, Lacey, Lawless, Robinson, O'Donnell, Walker, O'Connor, Crawford. 

Att: 1,409


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