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Meet the newcomers- Part 2

Meet the newcomers- Part 2

Stephen King23 May - 19:05
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Snapshots of two more of the sides joining our division for next season.

Flackwell Heath: We had a long (24 games) association with the Heathens mostly straddling the turn of the century and ending in the 2006/7 season. At that point both of us had been promoted to Step 4 but they found the going hard and were relegated after finishing bottom of the Isthmian Division One (North). Life in Step 5 was more appealing and only twice since then has their league position needed to be expressed in two digits.

They’ve spent their time well it seems and will be appearing at Wodson Park as champions of the Combined Counties League which they won whilst suffering a mere three defeats in 38 games. At the same time, they scored just one short of a century of goals.

Outside of league football they’ve reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup twice losing at home to Crawley Town in 2002/3 and away to Billericay Town two seasons later. They reached the quarter finals of the FA Vase in 2021/2 but lost 2-0 away to United Services Portsmouth.

Their ground has a challenging slope from corner to corner which could make life difficult for any opponents unfamiliar with the pitch.

Hitchin Town: Along with St Albans City, Hitchin always seemed to me to be the epitome of non-league football in Hertfordshire. My visits with Ware in the sixties left me impressed by such simple things as the professional PA announcements, the well-constructed and written programme notes and the good playing surface surrounded by typical non-league stands all set in the centre of the town. Why wouldn’t they be a well-supported side with high expectations? I want to believe that that is still the case despite the growth of their once junior neighbours in Stevenage.

Of course, their relegation on the last day of the season doesn’t quite fit the image I have constructed. However, they drew at home in front of 1100 supporters in their last game when a win would have saved them so I fully expect them to be a force next season. Certainly, the two previous relegations they’ve suffered in the last thirty years have seen them recover their lost status at the first or second time of asking.

In any event we’ll have to be on the lookout in our games against them as we’ve always found them tough opponents. Since their founding in 1928 we have met 32 times including three friendlies and you can count our victories on the fingers of one hand.

For a time the Hitchin club housed its own football museum though responsibility for that has passed to the North Herts Museum. There must be something in the air of north Herts because former Ware and Hitchin player Nick Whitehead has a similar museum at his home just across the border in Bedfordshire.

Several other players have turned out for both clubs of whom I would mention Brian Stockwell and more recently Stuart Hammonds who joined us from the Canaries to help win the old Isthmian division two championship and reach the first round of the FA Cup. John Frendo, Stuart's colleague in that Ware side, eventually went in the opposite direction, joining Hitching in 2010.

The Canaries have had plenty of successes in the national knock out cups themselves including reaching the second round of the FA Cup in two consecutive seasons during the 1990s. They have also reached the fifth round of the FA Trophy, going out to eventual finalists Forest Green Rovers in 1998/9 whilst in the FA Amateur Cup they were beaten semi-finalists twice in the early 1960s.

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