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Luke Holmes2

Brett bags the winner as Magpies fall to Hitchin

BY David Williams: Dorset Echo Sport

DORCHESTER TOWN 0 HITCHIN TOWN 1

Brett Donnelly’s first-half strike condemned the Magpies to another 1-0 defeat at the Avenue tonight.

Dorchester’s loss to Hitchin came just a few days after Mark Jermyn’s men had suffered a single-goal reverse against Hungerford on home turf.

And, as in Saturday’s setback, the county town outfit were again found lacking when they got into the final third of the pitch.

The hosts lined up for the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division encounter with Luke Holmes coming in for his full debut after a substitute appearance at the weekend.

Lewis Morgan was the man to make way and didn’t feature at all in the matchday squad, while Nick Crittenden took a place on the bench with Holmes stepping up.

The game wasn’t even two minutes old when the visitors were presented with a gilt-edged chance to take the lead.

Neil Martin was caught ball watching just inside his own half and when he took far too long to clear Jonny McNamara stole in.

The Canaries man fed team-mate Robbie Burns and the striker bore down on goal from 40 yards out with only keeper Alan Walker-Harris to beat.

However, Walker-Harris didn’t panic and saved well at the feet of the Hitchin forward who should have done better.

The Magpies settled into the game after that early scare and Jonah Ayunga twisted and turned his way past visiting skipper Alasan Ann and right-back Lewis Rolfe before scuffing his shot.

Holmes looked sharp in the middle of the park and Bradley Tarbuck was full of running as he linked up nicely with Ben Watson.

Scoring opportunities were thin on the ground over the next 20 minutes or so as both teams seemed to cancel each other out.

Rolfe went into Stroud referee Adam Matthews’ notebook for holding Ayunga as the youngster tried to break away.

Then, out of nothing, Hitchin took the lead.

A ball from halfway, be it through luck or judgement, split the Dorchester defence and found Burns.

It looked like he was going to shoot but instead the centre forward crossed for Donnelly to tap home.

And Donnelly might have killed the game off two minutes before the interval.

Rolfe surged down the right wing, played a give and go with McNamara, and crossed to an unmarked Donnelly six yards from goal.

Hitchin’s goal scorer should have found the back of the net but his header struck the base of the post and rebounded into the arms of a grateful Walker-Harris.

Canaries stopper Charlie Horlock was the grateful one just after half-time when Watson didn’t connect properly with a close-range flick after Ayunga had robbed a defender of the ball on the touchline.

As they pushed for an equaliser, Dorchester played a high defensive line at times, and the lively McNamara almost caught them on the counter nine minutes into the second half.

He broke with pace before firing a left-foot shot which Walker-Harris saved low down.

And after the hosts had replaced Watson with Liam Sayers, Hitchin forced Walker-Harris into another save.

On this occasion, the Magpies’ gloveman got down to parry a speculative volley from distance by Sam Barker.

Things might not have been going his side’s way but Holmes continued to impress in midfield, while Ayunga never stopped running up front.

After making several key saves to keep the Magpies in the contest, Walker-Harris came close to letting McNamara in for a second Hitchin goal.

The county town stopper sliced a clearance and had to sprint back to prevent McNamara from tapping into an empty net.

At the other end, Canaries defender Dan Webb had to make a crucial block to divert Tarbuck’s fierce drive over the top.

Dorchester, who had barely troubled Horlock all night, threw everyone forward for a corner in injury-time but the Hitchin keeper was up to the task as he parried a header and then gathered a high ball under pressure.

The Magpies now move on to Histon this Saturday where they will try to avoid going down to a third successive league defeat.

Magpies: Walker-Harris, Oldring, Smeeton, Martin, Walker, Dillon, Davis, Holmes, Ayunga, Watson (Sayers 62), Tarbuck (Crittenden 83). Subs not used: Murphy, Brookes, Hanger.

Hitchin: Horlock, Rolfe (Smith 81), Bickerstaff, Ann, Webb, Walster, McNamara, Lench, Donnelly (Kirkpatrick 84), Burns, Barker. Subs not used: Johnson, Wright, Martin.

Bookings: Magpies – None

Hitchin – Rolfe (foul, 25)