A young Hatters development squad fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 with the UK Armed Forces in a competitive friendly played at Hitchin Town’s Top Field this afternoon.
Conor Lawless netted a late penalty to draw the Town youngsters level, after former professional Jake Gosling had put the representative side ahead from the spot eight minutes after half-time.
The Hatters had the first sight of goal in the 13th minute, Matt Moloney – playing on the pitch where he is currently enjoying a loan spell with the Canaries in the Southern League – switched the ball to Josh Allen on the right, who set Jacob Pinnington up for a shot, but the right-back dragged it wide.
It took another 20 minutes for the next attempt, when Ed McJannet and Tra Lucas combined to play Callum Nicolson in on the left, but his curler from just outside the box was straight at Forces’ keeper Christian Paulat-Brigg.
It was a first half of few chances, with McJannet bursting onto a ball into the box with time almost up, after a good move down the right flank, but the Republic of Ireland U19 international’s path was blocked by a perfectly timed challenge from a Forces defender, and it remained goalless at the break.
The Forces took the lead in the 53rd minute when Gosling was fouled by Moloney inside the box, with the former Exeter and Bristol Rovers winger picking himself up to convert the penalty past Harry Isted.
McJannet and Eddie Corbit, on as a sub for Tyrelle Newton, both tried their luck in mounting a response, before another impressive game changer, Jake Burger, came closest with an attempted chip over Paulat-Brigg from 35 yards, his audacious effort just wide.
It was the same end result in the 82nd minute, when Conor Lawless clipped a free-kick from just inside the opposition half over the top for Nicolson, whose first touch was perfect, but his left footed volley just the wrong side of the post.
The equaliser came three minutes from time when another sub, Millar Matthews-Lewis, tricked his way past right-back Drysdale, only to be brought down in the box. Lawless confidently stepped up to convert into the top corner.
The visitors were reduced to ten men in injury-time when Mike Atkinson was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Town Oliver Hemlin.
Town’s youngsters had another chance to win it, five minutes into added time, when Corbit met Casey Pettit’s free-kick with a firm header, but Paulat-Brigg gathered and saw off the danger.
There was still time for what would have been one of the own goals of the season, as Drysdale went in for a heavy challenge just inside his own half, and the ball went backwards, clearing his own goalkeeper, but to his relief landing just wide of Paulat-Brigg's post!
Honours even in an excellent, physical test for the Town academy prospects.
TOWN: Harry Isted, Jacob Pinnington, Casey Pettit, Matt Moloney, Callum Nicholson, Conor Lawless, Tyrelle Newton (Eddie Corbit 60), Ed McJannet (Millar Matthews-Lewis 75), Tra Lucas (Jake Burger 46, Oliver Hemlin 89), Josh Allen (Archie Heron 68), Oliver Lynch.