CHESHUNT 2-0 HITCHIN TOWN
Herts Senior Cup Semi-Final
Tuesday 15th March 2022
By Jim Tuite
Cheshunt needed extra time and a stunning strike by Rowan Liburd to overcome Hitchin Town and reach their first Herts Senior Cup final in twelve years.
Playing their fifth game in ten days, Craig Edward’s side injury list made grim reading – Taylor Mackenzie unavailable due to a family bereavement, Daniel Ojo (cold) and Taylor Miles (knee) and Ola Williams (ankle) both likely to be out for the remainder of the season meant a half-fit Mo Camara was back on a four-man substitutes bench.
Third from bottom in the Southern Central Premier division, Hitchin surprisingly only made one change from the side that drew with Peterborough Sports at the weekend and came out in an eye-catching Magenta and Navy away strip, a respectful nod to the original Hitchin FC’s colours who folded in 1911.
The first half saw few chances for either side with a tip around the post from Cheshunt keeper George Marsh from a Jacob Hutchinson strike and shots from Liburd and Sam Alderson being the sum of both sides efforts. Alderson received a knock and was replaced by Zubayr Boadi soon after.
The second period was an equally tense affair with the Canaries getting the best of the opening moments. Hutchinson had an appeal for a penalty waved away by Referee Jorden Gibson and Lewis Barker was just off target with a long-range effort. Cheshunt bounced back with a Joe Re free-kick being charged down and scrambled away only for Re to then thump the loose ball straight back into the melee where it was blocked once again. Chances then fell to Reece Beckles-Richards, Jamie Reynolds and Zack Newton but all were saved or off target. As the clock ticked down, the tension grew and even the usually noisy 172-strong Cheshunt home support were muted. With a minute left of normal time, Hitchin substitute Johnny Allotey broke free on the right and delivered a far post cross to Hutchinson only for Cheshunt centre-half Adam Crowther to make a heart-stopping interception and send the game into an extra thirty minutes play.
Edwards decided to substitute the substitute, with Boadi coming off for Kayne Diedrick-Roberts in extra time and he was immediately called upon with a free-kick that Hitchin keeper Charles Horlock easily held.
Three minutes later the game exploded into life when Liburd gathered a seemingly harmless loose ball thirty-plus yards from goal, looked up and let fly with a stunning strike into the top corner of the net for his seventeenth goal of the season.
Six minutes later it was 2-0 when Crowther rose at the back post to head home a Diedrick-Roberts corner.
With new-found energy, the Ambers almost made it 3-0 moments after when Newton broke through to square to Liburd only for Horlock to parry the ball into the path of the oncoming Diedrick-Roberts, who slotted just wide.
The second period saw a spirited fight back from the visitors with Amadou Kasserate making a superb block to deny Hutchinson before, in the dying moments, skipper Dan Webb missing an open goal from six yards out.
Cheshunt now go onto face South Midland League side Hadley who play two levels below them. Whilst this will be Cheshunt’s tenth County Cup final – with the unenviable record of having lost on all nine previous attempts – this will be the Barnet-based sides first-ever appearance, with the date and venue to be decided in the week ahead.
Cheshunt – Marsh, Ekongo, McClean, Kasserate, Crowther, Alderson (Boadi 44 – Diedrick-Roberts 91), Beckles-Richards, Re, Liburd (Camara 106), Newton, Reynolds.
Hitchin Town – Horlock, Georgiou, Brown, Gleeson (Black 18), Webb, Jones, Coldicott-Stevens, Barker, Hutchinson, DaSilva (Allotey 85), Stevens (Conlon 106)