Hitchin Town 1-1 Arlesey Town. Att:431.
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round 2013/14
What you want from the early rounds of the FA Cup is a few beers, a little bit of spice, a trip to an old ground and a few like-minded chums to fuel the whimsy.
For this, Hitchin ticks some boxes. Pubs? Yes, several with some pedigree, including the Half Moon with its pub dog that is scared of mobile phone cameras. Yes, it runs away. Old ground? Oh yes, Top Field still has wooden terracing and some dolmens [the latter bit isn’t true] dotted around left over from pagan times. A bit of spice? A 1st Qualifying Round match up with local rivals Arlesey.
Smashing, now where are the chums? Running for the hills, that’s where. “Hitchin? Errr, actually, I’m trimming my wig today, Damon, can’t make it.” Despite all those boxes being ticked, Hitchin simply didn’t wash for some loons, so instead it was a solo journey into Hertfordshire to meet the keeper of the Hitchin Town FC Twitter controls and their former tea-lady.
Hitchin is a place notable for it’s lack of notoriety. It’s a fact that Hitchin is the only town in England in which nothing bad has ever happened, except the home defeat to Arlesey on the final day of the 2010-11 season that cost them promotion. I was then expecting a quiet, nay dull, old time of it.
But, chat about tribute bands quickly merged with cinema listings and so was born the ‘Little Stevie Hawkings’ (copyright @cat_daisy) tribute act. The world’s super scientist glammed up in silver jump suit to smash out his encore bothering version of Duran’s ‘Planet Earth’. Go on, do the lyrics in your head in Hawkings voice. Go on. I did. Out loud. In the pub. The day was looking up.
Arlesey is the next station up the line from Hitchin. They are a community club and have a chairman who’s launched some dosh at the project so are seen as vulgar new money by the landed gentry of old Hitchin Town.
They may have a point. In Zema Abbey Arlesey have a manager with league experience. His right hand man is his brother Nathan, ditto, and their main bench-warmer is former Premier League net-bulger Barry Hayles. If you add to that a couple of Top Field turncoats lured away by Arlesey’s lucre, you have all the ingredients for a powderkeg afternoon.
Top Field is a very nice ground. You’ll find few remaining examples of wooden terraces anywhere in England and theirs remains largely not rotten. The Curva Top Field is a nicely banked end with the back fence absolutely covered in lovely sweet blackberries, ripe as hell and a perfect dessert to the decently proportioned chip/burger combo on offer for a whopping £5+.
Sadly, Hitchin play in yellow and green and their nicknames is ‘The Canaries’ *spit* so they didn’t endear themselves to this ITFC-er. Sadly, the away side include a former Nodger and also beat our Dulwich Hamlet at this stage last season so I was never going to support them. Decisions decisions.
To add to the sadness, Hitchin don’t do songs and Arlesey don’t do fans, which meant the admittedly robust crowd of 431 rarely troubled the local environmental health department’s decibel meter. There were still some isolated shouts thanks to some dubious reffing decisions and some robust Arlesey challenges. The occasional Hitchin chance also provoked some loud clapping but this was a subdued crowd, perhaps surprising given the local rivalry but less so when you consider they played each other in the league a few weeks ago.
The first half was pretty good, the home side conjured up the early pressure, the away side played on the break, much like they seemed to at home to Hamlet last season. It was from one of those breaks, against the run of play, that Arlesey went in front. Punt over the top, spring-heeled chase and a tidy slot under the keeper from the exotically monickered Andrew Osei-Siribour.
It didn’t take long for Hitchin to equalise and it was a nice swift forward move culminating in another tidy finish from Michael King, who also had very tidy hair. He liked to touch his hair, also. This we noticed after a local commented “that boy’s always playing with his hair”. We checked. The local was not wrong.
In the second half Hitchin had a series of chances, corners and more possession and should have put the tie away. But neither side looked like scoring and the match petered out into away side time wasting. All back to Arlesey for tea, chips and a replay.