Hitchin Town 0-1 Faversham Town - It's the furthest this club has been in The FA Cup, says a proud Clive Walker

Monday 19th September 2016
Hitchin Town 0 – 1 Faversham Town
Location Top Field, Fishponds Road, Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1NU
Kickoff 19/09/2016 19:45

The Emirates FA Cup Second Qualifying Round Replay
Monday 19th September 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Top Field

FAVERSHAM TOWN assistant manager Clive Walker hailed his players’ bravery after they put in a resilient backs against the wall performance to reach The FA Cup Third Qualifying Round for the first time in their history.


The Lilywhites fought back from being 2-0 down at home to sixth-placed Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division side Hitchin Town on Saturday, to earn a second bite of the cherry, on a wet night in Hertfordshire.

Immense Faversham central defender Ryan Cheek headed a cross behind for Hitchin Town’s third corner of the game in the 12th minute and one bulb blew in one of the floodlight pylons, plunging half the pitch into darkness as two of the four floodlight plyons failed and play was held up for around 15 minutes.

But Faversham Town completed a smash-and-grab raid, quite literally when after 14 minutes of actual play, striker Dean Grant thumped in his ninth goal of the season to win it for the sixth-placed Ryman League Division One South side.

Hitchin Town threw the kitchen sink at Faversham Town during a dominant second half, but Faversham threw their bodies on the line and held on to book a home tie against Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central side Egham Town in unchartered territory for the Kent club on 1 October.

“Fantastic result, I think it’s the furthest this club has been in The FA Cup,” said a proud Walker, who was in charge as manager Ray Turner couldn’t switch his fireman’s shift to make the game.

“Hard game, we were resilient, a lot of young lads playing defending for their lives because we had to.  They put a lot of pressure on us second half.

“I thought we had the best chances but it was a hard, long game with the lights going out and all that sort of stuff, it didn’t help but to be fair to them there’s a lot of young lads in there and I thought they played well.”

Faversham Town were the better side during the first half and winger Mobolaji Dawodu was to be denied by a goal-line clearance after he met George Monger’s driven corner from the right after only 39 seconds.

Hitchin Town’s shooting on the night was poor and they should have done better from their first of 13 corners.

Lucas Kirkpatrick cut the ball back to Robbie Burns, who played the ball into the box and the ball came out to Lewis Rolfe, who produced a central defender’s finish, blazing his shot over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Faversham Town were awarded a free-kick some 25-yards from goal and Josh Stanford choose to roll the ball into Stephen Ratcliff’s path, but the left-back drove his shot over the crossbar, when in reflection Stanford should have gone for goal himself.

Hitchin right-back Kane Smith delivered the first of many long balls into the Faversham box and the immense Cheek rose to put his header behind for a corner.

Play re-started at twenty minutes past eight and Faversham dealt with Ben Walster’s resulting corner from the left, once light was restored to all four pylons.

One Hitchin Town official said that the floodlights were only four months old.

“I don’t know what happened to the lights,” said Walker. “They’re brand new lights.  It’s been raining all night and maybe that’s done something to them, I don’t know, but at least we got the game played without having to come back and play again, which is a result.

“We were waiting for 15 minutes, we came out they loosened themselves off again and we’re defending a corner straight away, which you’ve got to get people geared in properly, the mental side of it and the concentration has got to be good because the game stopped for so long and we’ve got a corner taken against us but we did well, they defended well.”

Faversham Town won the game as early as the 14th minute of actual play, courtesy of an emphatic strike from striker Grant.

Dawodu slipped the ball in behind Hitchin’s back four and Grant took a touch before lashing a stunning right-footed drive over the keeper’s right shoulder into the roof of the net.

“A fantastic strike, it’s a fantastic goal,” hailed Walker, who made four changes from Saturday’s first game.

“Great interception by Bola, the first time he’s got back behind the ball and he’s in a situation, what a finish!

“I thought Dean Grant played well. I thought he’s been a handful all season. He’s got 9 goals now, he’s always scored goals as well because his general play was good. He needs to score goals a centre forward.

“We started well.  The left-back (Stephen Ratcliff) was making his debut virtually because we haven’t got Renford (Tenyue) tonight. He’s done a fantastic job on their winger, who’s a decent player.”

Monger clipped a free-kick into Hitchin’s penalty area and Dawodu slipped on the gresy playing surface, the ball came out to right-back Ryan Cooper, who blasted his first time shot high over the bar and into the trees.

Hitchin Town were direct in their approach play during the first half.  Sam Barker’s deep free-kick was flicked on by quiet striker Brett Donnelly, whose header was comfortably saved by Will Godmon.

Faversham though created the better chances and Dawodu played the ball into Grant again, but this time his left-footed swept shot from 15-yards was comfortably saved by Michael Johnson.

Hitchin left-back Walster swung in a left-footed free-kick from the right and Lench’s near post flick was easily gathered by Godmon at his near post.

Kirpatrick cut back a corner from the right to Robbie Burns, who put the ball into the box but Lench’s shot deflected past the post.

With the time 20:53, referee Paul Forrester blew the half-time whistle, with Faversham deserving their slender lead.

When asked what he told his troops during the interval, he said: ”Well, it’s all about getting goal side. It’s all about concentrating, pressing balls when we can, get in to areas with pressure balls and be a bit more ruthless and look after the ball a bit better in the attacking third. We done all that fairly all right at times.

“We are part-time players. Monday is a bad time to play when you’re not used to it. We played Saturday, it was a hard game.”

Hitchin Town manager Mark Burke could be heard giving his players the hair dryer treatment inside the home dressing room during the interval and he clearly demanded a vastly-improved performance from his side during the second half.

Walker added: “We expected that. I said to them this could be the biggest, hardest half of football you’ll ever play this season – and it proved to be that!

“I know what this team (Hitchin Town) is like. I’ve been here many times when I was at Northampton. I used to watch them a lot and I know what it’s like here and it’s a very hard place to win at.”

The Canaries started the second half on the front foot and Smith’s deep cross was headed into Godmon’s hands by Robbie Burns, 72 seconds in, which set the tone.

Hitchin Town broke down the right through Lench, who poked the ball back to Smith, who cracked a 30-yard drive that only just cleared the crossbar.

But Faversham Town created a great chance to snatch a second in the 53rd minute.

Monger played a sublime diagonal 50-yard pass that split open the Hitchin defence to put Grant through on goal and his low angled drive forced Johnson into diving low to his right to hold on to the ball as he slid of the wet surface.

“Good save, he got down well, did well. Dean’s hit the target, the keeper made the save, you can’t argue with that,” added Walker.

Kirkpatrick was given time and space by the Faversham defence to hit a right-footed drive from 25-yards, which was comfortably gathered by Godmon.

With Hitchin Town pressing forward, even Rolfe came up from the back, cut inside Stanford and cracked a left-footed dipping drive from 30-yards, which only just cleared the top of the right-hand post - Godmon diving high to his left was beaten.

Lench put over a low cross from the right to midfielder Sam Barker, who took a touch before his left-footed drive deflected past the foot of the post.

But Godmon pulled off a brilliant save to deny Hitchin Town a deserved equaliser on the hour-mark from the resulting corner.

Kirkpatrick swung in the ball from the right towards the far post and central defender Dan Webb rose to plant his header towards the top near corner, Godmon clawing the ball around the top of his near post.

Walker said: “He’s a good keeper Will. He knows the game well, he’s bright, alert. It was a great save, great reaction, he works his feet well.”

Another excellent pass from midfield from Monger was chased down the right channel by striker Luke Harvey, who cut past his marker, despite having his shirt pulled, working himself into the penalty area and his low shot was tipped around the post by Johnson, low to his right.

“I thought Luke Harvey had another chance, with a great run, taking a couple of them on in the second half and should’ve scored but all credit to him taking people out of the game,” said Walker.

Hitchin Town continued to threw the kitchen sink at brave Faversham Town for the final 20 minutes and the men in white shirts showed the desire and bravery to maintain a clean sheet and grab all the FA Cup shock headlines.

For some reason, Webb decided to head the ball across goal when he was left unmarked at the far post, instead of calling Godmon into action, who then comfortably caught Brett Donnelly’s glancing header as another ball was put into Faversham’s box by a dominant Hitchin Town side.

Grant collected the ball on the half-way line and ran towards the corner and from the resulting corner, Faversham nearly killed the game off by hitting the near post in the final 11 minutes through Stanford’s inswinging corner from the right, their fourth and final corner on the night.

“It’s hit the post straight away, it happens, sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. The trouble is it came out the wrong way, it should’ve gone across the goal, we wouldn’t score there,” added Walker.

Walker reverted to a back six for the final five minutes and luck was on their side.

He said: “I wish the whistle would blow, that’s what was going through my mind! It seemed a long half to me.  You never know, you make a silly mistake or someone slips or someone gives a stupid free-kick away. I thought we were quite disciplined actually on a slippery surface as well.  You’re just hoping and praying the lads can see it through, for them as well, because they worked hard all night.”

Hitchin substitute Alasan Ann dropped into a midfield role (moving away from  left-wing) to float in a cross into the box for Webb to glance his header past the left-hand post.

Faversham left-back Stephen Ratcliff produced a brave block inside his six-yard box as Smith was about to pull the trigger and score a deserved equaliser as the ball squirmed about inside the Faversham box.

Walker said: “They got their bodies in there, heading balls out. I thought they were going to score at times because they’ve got a lot of height in there. We made some fantastic blocks in the box and you’ve got to give the lads credit for that, that’s clear bravery, that is.

“It was like the Somme, whatever you want to call it.  It was like we were in the trenches. To be fair to them, they’ve kept a clean sheet so we had to battle all the time but Hitchin are a good side and we had to be like that.

“We never did (concede). To be fair to the lads they got it out didn’t they and there wasn’t that much room in there.”

Hitchin skipper Callum Donnelly floated in a cross, which was flicked on by Webb and Lench stretched and couldn’t toe poke the ball into the net, Godmon moving to his left to gather the ball. 

You knew at that moment that Hitchin Town weren’t going to breach a resilient and solid Faversham defence, well marshalled by man-of-the-match Cheek, who looked at one stage that he was going to be replaced by John Scarborough after treatment, but got back up on his feet to see his team through, such desire for the cause, as did Monger who was struggled with a pulled hamstring.

“Cheeky goes down easily, he’s like a dying swan at times. He played weoo tonight,” said Walker.

“I’m hoping George Monger is not too bad, it’s his hamstring again. He’s big player, a big influence.”

Hitchin’s last chance came late as Ann played the ball out to Smith, who cut in from the right and his shot was gobbled up by Godmon.

The final whistle blew at 50:06 on the watch, the time being 21:55 and Faversham Town’s travelling fans celebrated a famous victory, inflicting Hitchin Town’s first home defeat too.

“I’m proud of the lads, I can’t say much more really,” added Walker.

“You come away for a FA Cup match on a Monday night, chucking it down with rain, lights going out, start again and they see it through to win the match. In a FA Cup match it’s what you have to do.  There’s no points or goal difference, you just have to win the match and great, we did, fantastic result.

“I’ve seen many games like this, I’ve been in a few of these sorts of situations, a lot of similar games and at higher levels and if it’s going to be your night, it’s going to be your night, you’ve got to win them.

“It’s such a big thing for them because they’ve never got this far, you get more money through doing it, which always helps the clubs at these levels because money is always a problem and it’s a great lift for young players to feel it and know it and have the experience of playing these sorts of games, in front of a decent crowd and good atmosphere and as a young player you’ve got to deal with it.”

Faversham Town host unbeaten league leaders Tooting & Mitcham United on Saturday, before Chatham Town visit Salters Lane three days later.

Faversham Town can then look forward to hosting Egham Town (who play at the same level as they do), knowing they are now only two wins away from reaching the First Round.

“I don’t know too much about them it’s another game, it’s a FA Cup match, we’re at home, it’s down to us, isn’t it?” said Walker.

“They’re never easy whoever you’re playing. They’ve got through the same rounds as well so they must be doing something right.  You’ve got to respect them. They’ve won matches to get through as far as we have so we’ve got to do it so they’re never easy matches, I’ll tell you.”

Hitchin Town: Michael Johnson, Kane Smith, Ben Walster, Sam Barker, Dan Webb, Lewis Rolfe, Matt Lench, Callum Donnelly, Brett Donnelly, Robbie Burns, Lucas Kirkpatrick (Alasan Ann 70).
Subs: Will Wright, Kieran Barnes, Stuart Pearson, Lewis McBride, Liam Brooks, James Verney

Booked: Kane Smith 33*

Faversham Town: Will Godmon, Ryan Cooper, Stephen Ratcliff, Dan Carrington, Matthew Bourne, Ryan Cheek, Mobolaja Dawodu, George Monger (John Scarborough 90), Dean Grant, Luke Harvey (Kieron Campbell 76), Josh Stanford.
Subs: Oliver Wells, Fabrice Blewordah

Goal: Dean Grant 14*

Booked: George Monger 37*, Dean Grant 69

*Actual time played following the floodlight failure (watch stopped when referee blew his whistle)

Attendance: 251
Referee: Mr Paul Forrester (Luton, Bedfordshire)
Assistants: Mr Laurentiu Hantea (Biggleswade, Bedfordshire) & Mr Doug Lawson (Royston, Hertfordshire)

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