Hayes and Yeading United's Buildbase FA Trophy campaign faltered at the first hurdle thanks to a late Will Wright goal from visitors Hitchin Town proving to be the difference between two evenly matched Evo Stik League Southern Division Premier teams.
Although the match proved to be a rather disappointing stalemate overall, it did at least start brightly and for the first quarter, the purposeful attacking play from both teams was encouraging. The visitors were the first to threaten as Smith fired the ball into the danger zone at pace with a low centre which was missed by a bevy of players at the near post and sliced high and wide by the unmarked Matt Lench at the far post. A similar move down the right soon afterwards saw Robbie Burns latch onto a low centre but his effort was well snuffed out by a brave lunge from Yassin Moutaouakil.
United responded with their own attacking intent mainly through the power of Melford Simpson and the pace of Jerson dos Santos and Lloyd Macklin. Simpson had a great effort on 20 minutes controlling a difficult high ball and reading the bounce well to turn and volley the ball towards the top corner, only for Michael Johnson to fly to his right to push the ball away to safety.
A free kick from Hitchin soon afterwards looked dangerous, but Louis Wells bravely got in front of Will Wright and collected the ball at the second attempt. However, the game was to settle down and although the home team enjoyed the majority of possession, they were unable to penetrate through the visitors' defensive line despite their best efforts, mainly through the aerial route. Towards the end of the half, Callum Donnelly wriggled free of Olu Durojaiye's challenge and created space before shooting low towards the bottom corner. Wells dived full length to his right to push the ball away and then got up to jockey Burns out wide as the Canaries' forward latched onto the rebound. However, Burns was able to swivel and send a looping shot back goalwards from a tight angle and but for Joe Debayo's superb athleticism to get back and head clear, Hitchin would've had a half time lead.
It as hoped that after the break, the game would've reverted back to the fast pace attacking play of the opening twenty minutes, but disappointingly, it failed to do so. United continued to do most of the probing but found the Hitchin back line in no mood to let them near goal. The away bench were the first to try something new and brought on Brett Donnelly up front. On 65 minutes, he got on the end of Ben Walster's low cross but toe-poked inches wide of the left hand post with most of the goal at his mercy. He also fired wide from a right wing cross soon afterwards.
United continued to be frustrated by the stubborn resistance of the Canaries defence, although Durojaiye did break the trend by bursting forward from his defensive midfield berth and shooting from 25 yards, only for his shot to curl off target. However, with the game seemingly drifting towards a goalless draw and a replay in Hertfordshire, and both teams cancelling each other out, the away side found a winner seven minutes from time. Walster's hit a free kick which swerved in front of Wells. Although he was able to block the ball, it was Wright who reacted quickest to nod the rebound past him and into the net.
Despite United piling defenders forward and a couple of set pieces proving challenging for the away team to clear, it was not to be United's day and it was Hitchin who progressed through to the Second Qualifying Round.
Report by Nick Bell.
United Man of the Match: Joe Debayo.