Dorchester Town settle for Hitchin Town blank

BY: Neil Walton – Dorset Echo Sport (@EchosportNeil)


DORCHESTER gained a point from an enterprising penultimate game of the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division season, drawing 0-0 with Hitchin at Top Field.

Ash Pope went closest for the Magpies in an entertaining opening, his shot skimming the hosts’ crossbar. Hitchin carved out numerous half-chances but failed to seriously test keeper Chris Weale.

Dorchester boss Steve Thompson made two changes to the starting XI that began the 1-0 home loss to promotion-chasing Slough Town on Saturday.

Centre-back Callum Rose and winger Tom Blair made way for Ross Carmichael, who earned his first start since a bout of asthma attacks, and Dom Panesar-Dower.

Blair dropped to the bench alongside Ed Bastick, Alex Stafie and Jason Brookes, but there was no place in the squad for the injured Luke Winsper, who withdrew from the Magpies’ side during Saturday’s warm-up due to a flare-up of an ankle injury.

In a frantic start to the game, Hitchin went close in the first minute as Magpies’ captain Weale saved a Connor Vincent header from Daniel Olaniran’s cross.

Dorchester were quick to counter-attack early on and Bournemouth loanee Pope clipped the crossbar with an attempt at goal following Panesar-Dower’s incisive ball through, that chance coming four minutes after Pope had been dispossessed by the recovering Canaries’ skipper Dan Webb after penetrating the hosts’ defensive line.

Play rapidly shifted to the Magpies’ area after Neil Martin skied his shot from a corner, with Weale advancing off his line to deny Trey Charles, who was sent off when Hitchin beat Dorchester 4-1 in December’s reverse fixture.

From the resultant corner, Kyle Egan athletically hooked the ball off the line from a Webb header as the breathless opening to the game continued.

After an understandable lull in chances, Hitchin tried their luck with two hopeful attempts, firstly when Robbie Burns shot well over, before Charlie Smith dragged an effort wide after a Canaries’ counter-attack.

Dorchester winger Aaron Rodriguez had been fairly quiet up to that point, but the Magpies’ number seven offered his first major contribution to the game when he fired over from distance.

Five minutes before the break, Hitchin went close when Matt Spring’s low, speedy cross evaded the Magpies’ defence, but a diving Charles directed his effort wide.

A Hitchin defensive error then presented Rodriguez with a sight of goal but the Magpies’ wide-man elected to shoot rather than feed a team-mate, fizzing a shot well over in the last meaningful action of a pulsating half.

With the second half starting as briskly as the first, both sides traded shots as first Panesar-Dower worked home stopper Josh Mollison following Egan’s lay-off, before Burns again blazed wide.

More good play from Dorchester, with Antonio Diaz flicking to Pope, ended with Rodriguez poking wide from the striker’s cross.

As the box-to-box action prevailed, Charles and Spring once more combined for Hitchin, but the former again lacked accuracy with his attempt, before Rodriguez failed to work Mollison with his fourth errant effort of the night as both sides continued to snatch at their attempts on goal.

Weale was then called into hasty action for the second time, rushing out to save at the feet of the tricky Jonny McNamara just after the hour.

Hitchin then made two attacking substitutions as the Canaries searched for the opening goal, bringing on Brett Donnelly and Patrick Tshikala for Vincent and Charles respectively.

But it was Dorchester who nearly broke the deadlock when Diaz’s shot forced a goalline clearance from Syme, before Thompson made a double attacking change to sub Pope and Diaz off for Stafie and Blair with just over 15 minutes remaining.

With time running out, Hitchin put together one of their best moves of the match as Syme and Smith were involved in the build-up before Burns’ bending cross nearly found McNamara, but the forward could not connect.

Dorchester subbed Rodriguez off for Bastick in stoppage-time, but the final big chance of the game fell to fellow sub Blair, who failed to score after Egan’s inviting ball to the winger.

As it was, Dorchester had to settle for their second successive away league stalemate, with the Magpies staying in 19th, now one point behind Farnborough with only Saturday’s trip to Biggleswade Town (3pm) remaining on their calendar.

Hitchin: Mollison, Byrne, Olaniran, Spring, Webb (Syme 46), Bickerstaff, Charles (Tshikala 71), Smith, Vincent (Donnelly 68), Burns, McNamara. Subs not used: Johnson, da Silva

Magpies: Weale, Egan, Martin, Griggs, Carmichael, Clarke, Rodriguez (Bastick 90), Lowes, Pope (Stafie 74), Diaz (Blair 74), Panesar-Dower.

Sub not used: Brookes

Referee: A. List

Attendance: 207