The FA Cup dream resumes this weekend as United prepare to face Hitchin Town at Top Field on Saturday. It took a determined, resilient performance at Aylesbury United a couple weeks ago to secure this high-profile non-league tie with Charlie Black’s late goal giving Cristian Colás’ side a narrow 0-1 victory. Despite the excitement ahead of this game, there was still a league fixture to attend to beforehand and United went about their work diligently at Colney Heath and left The Recreation Ground with all three points courtesy of a strike from substitute Josh Sturniolo. Another 0-1 win but that clean sheet for goalkeeper Tom Wyant was made more impressive by the opponent’s record of eleven goals in their four league matches prior to this one- including six at FC Broxbourne Borough the week before. So the disappointment of the home defeat to newly-promoted Edgware Town a few weeks back has certainly evaporated and there’s nothing but optimism heading into this massive cup fixture. United have never gone beyond the First Qualifying Round in the FA Cup providing the greatest indication of the difficult task at hand. In addition to progression into the next round the winners will triumph in the Top Field Trophy, a title given to any future meetings between the two teams since a match was contested a few years ago as part of Hitchin’s campaign to retain their hallowed turf which had been under threat. Furthermore, the game is significant for charitable purposes as well as spectators can enter on a ‘Pay what you Want’ basis with 10% of the gate receipts being donated to Prostate Cancer UK. Saturday September 3rd also represents the seventh official Non League day and among the guests at Top Field will be Non League Daily editor Mark Carruthers. A busy day off the field but on it United have no reason to fear their hosts and based on the vast improvements made under the newly implemented coaching structure, they should be confident of toppling higher division opposition yet again.
Hitchin Town
Having been beaten by Hungerford Town in the play-off semi-finals last year after achieving 3rd place The Canaries remain in the Southern League Premier Division. They’ve made steady progress in recent years finishing 14th in 2011/12 followed by consecutive 13th place finishes and then 9th position in the table before last season’s success. Therefore, they will be looking to continue the upward trajectory the club’s been on which should result in promotion. However, the start to the new campaign has been average at best. It’s only seven games in but the Hertfordshire club find themselves in 16th place with a modest return of eight points. One would think goalscoring would be the main issue after the summer departure of last season’s top scorer Jonny Mcnamara, who joined National League South outfit Hemel Hempstead, yet 11 goals is a respectable number at this stage. It’s defensively where The Canaries have struggled somewhat with the concession of 12 goals looking very poor in comparison to their potential promotion rivals. Their most recent result was a 2-1 defeat at now 4th placed Dunstable Town. Head Coach Cristian Colás and Assistant Head Coach Fran Constancio were in attendance at Creasey Park and they watched the visitors fall two goals behind despite having the better of proceedings for large parts. The season began positively for Mark Burke’s side with a 4-3 opening day win at home to Cinderford Town, but the next four matches would see them pick up just two points. A 2-0 loss at Hayes and Yeading United was swiftly followed by a 0-0 draw at Kettering Town before a 1-1 scoreline at home to Chesham United. Another poor result on the road then came at Stratford Town with a 3-2 reversal, prior to beating Banbury United 3-1 at home to give them their second three points of the season. They failed to gather any momentum off the back of that victory, however, as the loss at Dunstable came just two days later on Bank Holiday Monday.
Hitchin’s slow start offers encouragement for United as their hosts haven’t been able to reach the high level they set last season as of yet. Ultimately though, they are two divisions above for a reason and undoubtedly possess the quality to inflict significant damage on their visitors. But United have shown a stubbornness and a strong sense of resolve in these big cup games in the past, where they have been able to effectively negate the threat of their superior opposition. Therefore, a good defensive display will be integral to securing a famous result on what should prove to be a marvellous afternoon’s football at Top Field on Saturday, KO 3pm.
Preview by Leon Waite