Hitchin Town - Top Field
BRIEF HISTORY/FACTS ABOUT THE CANARIES:
Hitchin Town Football Club were formed in 1928 and were formed as Hitchin Town. The original Hitchin club, Hitchin FC, were formed in 1865. The club took part in the inaugural FA Cup competition in 1871–72, reaching the quarter-finals before losing to runners-up Royal Engineers. In 1905, Hitchin defeated Chelsea 3–2 to become the first away team to win at Stamford Bridge. Hitchin turned professional during the early years of the 20th century, but following financial difficulties and a fire at their ground, the club folded in 1911. 17 years later of course Hitchin Town were formed and it was at this time, the Canaries identity was settled upon. The club colours were agreed as yellow and blue, replacing the old club's white and magenta - green replaced blue after only a few seasons. The new club were admitted to the Spartan League, and their first season, 1928–29, was a success — Hitchin won the Herts Charity Shield, as well as promotion to the Spartan League's second tier. Promotion to the top flight of the Spartan League was won in 1930–31 and Hitchin won the AFA Senior Cup a year later. Reg Smith, a future England player, led Hitchin to the Spartan League championship in 1934–35 before moving on to Millwall a year later. The club moved from the Spartan League to the Athenian League for the 1939–40 season, but after only two league matches the outbreak of World War II prompted the suspension of competitive football. The club met Football League opposition in the FA Cup for the first time during 1958–59, but despite holding Millwall to a 1–1 draw at Top Field, lost 2–1 in the replay. Hitchin travelled to Crystal Palace two years later in the same competition and lost 6–2. The move to the Isthmian League coincided with a time of financial strife at the club. The club finished in the bottom half of the division during their first five seasons in the league, as the club struggled to attract players of a sufficient quality. The club were not helped by corruption behind the scenes — some supposedly amateur players were receiving salaries, and when this emerged, the club were barracked by the local press. The late 1960s saw the arrival of Vince Burgess as manager. Led by Burgess, Hitchin finished as Isthmian League runners-up in 1968–69 and won the London Senior Cup a year later. The success brought by Burgess then dissipated as soon as it had appeared, as Burgess left the club in 1970. Hitchin did, however, win the East Anglian Cup in 1972–73. During the 1970s, Hitchin reached the FA Cup first round four times —– in 1973–74, 1974–75, 1976–77 and 1978–79. The 1973–74 run was ended abruptly by fellow Non-League side Boston United, who beat Hitchin 1–0 in the second round to deny them a third round tie against Derby County. Meanwhile, league finishes were poor — Hitchin only finished in the top half twice, ninth in 1976–77 and fifth a year later. In 1994–95, the club beat Hereford United 4–2 at Top Field in the FA Cup first round. A year later, Bristol Rovers were defeated 2–1, also in the first round, thanks to two early goals. The second round tie at Gillingham, was lost 3–0. Despite the cup success, league form plummeted once more. The club were relegated once again in 1997–98, but the club won promotion back a year later. Melvin led the club to a 10th-place finish in 2000–01, before stepping down. Hitchin Town have made steady progress in the Southern League Premier Division in the last 5 seasons. They have finished 14th, 13th, 13th and 9th, before reaching a best-ever position in the league of 3rd in 2015-16. This saw them qualify for the play-offs but they lost their semi-final at Top Field 3-2 to Hungerford Town, having held a 2-0 lead in front of a crowd of 1305. However the season ended on a high as Hitchin then defeated Boreham Wood 2-1 to lift the Hertfordshire Senior Cup. In 2016-17, Hitchin Town finished in 4th place and won their play-off semi-final via a penalty shoot-out against Merthyr Town. The final took place at Leamington and Hitchin took an early lead which they held until the 90th minute when they conceded a penalty and were reduced to ten men. Leamington won 2-1 with a goal in extra time to clinch promotion. Hitchin did however retain the Hertfordshire Senior Cup with a 2-1 win over Bishops Stortford, having previously lost 1-0 to Cheshunt in the Hertfordshire Charity Cup Final.
Hitchin Town 3-0 King's Lynn Town
Wednesday 23rd January 2019
Southern League Premier Central
My original visit to Hitchin actually came in 2015 but was only a visit to the ground to take some photos. Gillingham had Stevenage away in the FA Cup which proved to be non-existent as we were comfortably knocked out by 3-0. So checking the fixtures and luckily with a fairly new Thameslink train service from London Bridge, also as it's not too far of a walk from the station, it was proved to be doable on a midweek. Most of the time I do my Groundhopping basis on a Tuesday night but as it was my birthday, I decided to spend it with family and friends, followed by a Groundhop on the Wednesday night instead. Hitchin Town was the only one that I fancied doing, with my visit there as mentioned in 2015, I was fairly impressed with the ground then, so I sort of knew what to expect and wasn't to be disappointed. Also, on the day of the game it could have ended tits up, with the weather being appalling with bits of snowing falling in Hertfordshire, in the end there was a planned inspection at 1.30pm but luckily the inspection passed, and it was game on. I left home shortly after 5pm and with a quick change at London Bridge, after leaving there an hour later, I arrived into Hitchin around 6.55pm. I arrived at the ground shortly afterwards.
After taking photos, I came across a little programme shop in the ground and decided to have a look in there. After seeing so many programmes which were in alphabetical order, it suddenly occurred to me that Gillingham had previously played Hitchin Town at least a couple of times in the past, so thought I'd look to see if there were any Gills - Hitchin programmes, and luckily came across one as the picture proves above. Luckily there was a nice old boy inside printing team sheets for tonight's game at the time, asked how much was he selling it for, and he said as it was going to a good home, you can have it for 10p. A great bargain, and a good read reading up old players such as Dennis Bailey, Neil Smith and co playing for Gills at the time. I decided to wait till just before half time to grab a bite to eat at the ground due to a fairly long queue. So after taking photos around the ground, I stood behind the goal and made sure not to slip as it was fairly icy, knowing my luck I would have slipped over haha.
The game itself was a fairly good game to watch. Hitchin took the lead after 6 minutes from Harry Draper who was on loan from Stevenage their neighbours, an easy tap in from a scrappy corner. Substitute Scott Belgrove who had only been on the pitch 8 minutes made it 2-0 which the original shot was parried by King's Lynn keeper only for him to tap it in to make it 2-0 with the hosts playing some really good football. HT came and I went to grab something to eat before the queue built up and proved to be a good move. I bought a cheeseburger and chips for £5.50 which proved to be really nice and worth the money. After that I decided to go into the bar and keep warm for about 10 minutes as I couldn't feel a thing haha. 2nd half kicked off, and I made my way back into the ground and the game was done and dusted on 81 minutes which saw Harry Draper chase down the ball and get fouled in the box to win the penalty. Jay Dowie comfortably made it 3 to easily wrap the game up with the visitors putting up a bit more of a fight in the 2nd half but didn't prove to be anything in the end. A great win for the hosts as their relegation battle was eased just a tad, and also saw the visitors fighting in the Play Offs suffer a loss. A full report on the game can be found on Hitchin's website by clicking here. A very cold night in Hertfordshire which saw me arrive home not long after midnight.
Hitchin Town have been playing at Top Field ever since the club's formation in 1928. The record attendance at Top Field, 7,878, was set in 1955 for an FA Amateur Cup tie between Hitchin Town and Wycombe Wanderers. New floodlights were installed in Summer 2016 and, as some 50 years earlier, they were officially inaugurated with a friendly match against an Arsenal side on 10 November 2016. The lights were switched on by former Arsenal player Pat Rice. The current capacity at Top Field is 4,000. The nearest railway station is Hitchin, around a 15-20 minute walk.