Town can't find a way through at Top Field
The Hatters were held to a goalless draw in their annual pre-season fixture at Hitchin Town.
The Town began playing with three centre-halves in Stephen McNulty, Scott Cuthbert and Luke Wilkinson together with wing-backs Dan Potts and Stephen O’Donnell. The scorer of the Hatters’ goal at Boreham Wood, Craig Mackail-Smith, partnered Josh McQuoid in attack.
It took a good 20 minutes for the first half-chance to fall the Town’s way when Mackail-Smith danced through the Hitchin defence, but his pass seeking Cameron McGeehan was cleared.
The first real opportunity came five minutes later when that man Mackail-Smith capitalised on a mistake in the Canaries defence to race goalwards. The striker’s low shot seemed destined for the bottom corner until home goalkeeper Charlie Horlock got down to his right to palm the ball away.
As the Town upped the ante as half-time approached, Potts saw a firm drive from the edge of the box blocked by the home defence.
And moments later Horlock came to the Canaries’ rescue six minutes before the break when he tipped away McGeehan’s side-foot shot after a fine flowing Town move involving O’Donnell, Nathan Doyle, Luke Guttridge and Mackail-Smith.
John Still made six changed at half-time, introducing trialist goalkeeper Deniz Mehmet, Jonathan Smith, Alex Lawless, Scott Griffiths, Paddy McCourt and Mark O’Brien.
It wasn’t until the hour mark that Horlock in the Hitchin goal was threatened when the Town came close to taking the lead. Doyle’s excellent cross-field pass released Lawless down the right and after his dangerous cross was parried away by the keeper captain Smith’s scuffed shot was easy for Horlock to smother.
Two minutes later the Town came close once more when Cuthbert’s excellent defensive header released McCourt who in turn fed Josh McQuoid, but after cutting inside onto his left foot the striker fired a shot high over the crossbar.
McQuoid then showed a good turn of pace to race into the box before having a shot cleared off the line by Dan Webb, before Hitchin came close to taking the lead when Mehmet had to get down to his right to keep out Simon Martin’s low shot.
The Town, however, continued to probe in search of the lead and Mackail-Smith came close with an acrobatic bicycle kick on 70 minutes when found by Lawless’ right-wing cross.
With 15 minutes left McQuoid spurned a decent chance to put the Town in front when he fired over having been set-up by Mackail-Smith, and moments later Lawless’ deflected cross kissed the Hitchin crossbar before the home side cleared their lines.
As time ticked down Mackail-Smith almost conjured up a goal from nothing when he turned in the box to deliver a low cross which was cleared at the last minute with Lawless lurking for a tap-in.
But despite pushing for a winner in the closing stages – which saw Griffiths nod wide from a left-wing corner – Hitchin held out and the Town were left frustrated to a goalless draw.
First half: Justham, O'Donnell, Potts, McNulty, Cuthbert, Wilkinson, McGeehan, Doyle, Guttridge, McQuoid, Mackail-Smith.
Second half: Mehmet, Potts, Griffiths, Cuthbert, O'Brien, Lawless, McCourt, Doyle, Smith, McQuoid (sub Banton 76), Mackail-Smith.