FOOTBALL can be a cruel business at times as Daventry Town can testify as a fluke 79th-minute goal put league leaders Hitchin on the way to a 2-0 victory in front of a Central Division record crowd of 463 at Top Field on Saturday.
With the seconds ticking away and the wind at their backs, Ady Fuller’s men looked the more likely of the two sides to break the deadlock. Then up popped Richard Howell (no relation to Ryan) to score the decisive goal for the Canaries.
Howell’s harmless looking shot was well covered by Town goalkeeper Andy Kemp until flying into the opposite corner of the net on taking a wicked deflection off the hapless Martin Hutchcox.
With nothing to lose the visitors then threw on an extra striker in Rob Foster and paid the penalty for pushing forward when Hitchin broke away for Howell’s cross to be met by a rasping volley from John Frendo.
That made Frendo the clear-cut leading scorer with 16 league and cup goals, one ahead of Daventry’s own Tom Berwick on a day when the Town could reasonably have expected to pick up at least a point.
Hitchin dominated the first-half with the breeze at their backs but roles were reversed after the interval before Howell’s deflected goal put a different perspective on the game.
No one could question the Daventry players’ commitment - a look at Russell Dunkley’s tortured face was enough to confirm that view as he left the field exhausted after a fascinating contest.
Paul Lamb’s early thigh strain led to Josh Blake’s early introduction as a substitute but the Canaries established a first-half territorial advantage although Zak Burke and Richard Howell both wasted scoring opportunities.
Ably marshalled by Aaron Parkinson the Daventry defence held firm though and it was the Town’s turn to fail to capitalise upon half chances in the second-half. Both Dunkley and Berwick had opportunities to break the deadlock!
It was not to be however and the flukey opening goal inadvertently deflected by the unlucky Hutchcox was followed by a killer blow from Frendo in the dying minutes in front of a partisan crowd which surpassed Hitchin’s previous best this season (444 at Christmas) by 19.
With Fuller looking to strengthen his squad in the next few days attention must now be focused on the upcoming home games against Slough Town and Atherstone after a Saturday on which all the promotion contenders, apart from Daventry and Arlesey, were successful.