A Jake Lovell strike early in the second period was enough to enhance United's position at the top of the Capital League Western Division with games rapidly running out for the chasing pack.
The game took a little time to get going with both sides much changed from the previous fixture just a couple of weeks ago. The first strike coming for the visitors when Matt Pring's cross was misjudged by Toby Little and the ball fell nicely to Dan Dorans but his drive across the face of goal was wide of the far post.
Darren Sarll went close for Hitchin with a free-kick before Scott Orphanou tried his luck from just outside the area but his shot was just a little too high to trouble Grant Beckwith in the Canaries goal. Minutes later United's best chance came as Ollie Fayed outpaced a defender to a throughball, he toed it past the on-coming Beckwith but could only watch as the ball rolled wide of the target.
United were soon to go closer still, Fayed played a free-kick from the left byeline to the far post, Steve Perkins rose highest but his header only managed to ripple the side netting. Five minutes before the break Hitchin were indebted to Beckwith who cleaned up his own mess. Lovell intercepted a weak kick from the keeper, turned past Jim Larkin before Beckwith pushed away his near post effort and his defence swept up the loose ball.
The second half could have started disastrously for the home side but for the quick thinking of Perkins. Dorans found himself some space on the right flank, his driven cross evaded Howe's dive but Perkins was on hand to head the ball wide of his own upright as two Hitchin forwards closed in for the kill.
Four minutes later Lovell struck the crucial blow. Howe sent a long punt deep into the
Canaries half of the field, Lovell gambled that Larkin was miss his header and nipped in to control the ball, hold off the big defender before slotting coolly past Beckwith.
On the hour United were unlucky not to net a second, Jack Pattison crossed deep to the far post where Lovell and Fayed arrived, the final touch coming from Canaries defender Colin Catermole who forced the ball out for a corner with inches to spare.
Hitchin's best chance of pulling level came on 66 minutes when
a quick break saw Little caught upfield as the ball broke on the opposite wing, a deep cross then found an unmarked Alex Fraser but he rushed his volley and the ball went across goal and wide of the far post.
Minutes later United were awarded a free-kick just outside the area, Little beat the wall but Beckwith did well to push the ball away at full stretch and a defender just beat Lovell to the loose ball.
Five minutes remained and Beckwith was to deny both United substitutes in the space of a few seconds. Charles Adeyemi ran through the middle of the park, his shot was beaten away by the Hitchin keeper and the ball fell perfectly to Henry Attu who blasted back only for Beckwith to throw himself to his left to again palm the ball to safety.
This win leaves Colin Davis' side needing a maximum of four points from their remaining three fixtures to guarantee top place in the Western Division of the Capital League.
Report by Kevin Watts.
Website United Man of the Match: Jamie Lindsay.