Ford fires Terras to Hitchin win
MARK Ford grabbed a fabulous hat-trick as the Terras produced a fine comeback in an action-packed encounter at the Bob Lucas Stadium.
Three goals in the first 16 minutes set the tone in this enthralling encounter but it was Weymouth that took control in the second half to chalk up back-to-back league victories for the first time this season.
The major absentee in the Terras’ line-up was combative midfielder Danny Clay, who missed out through suspension after accumulating five yellow cards. He was replaced by Craig Duff.
There were also a couple of changes on the bench where youngsters Jamie Perry and Louis Smith joined Scott Dixon, Lewis Clarke and Matt Groves.
Having ended a six-game winless streak with a 3-1 win at Banbury United the previous Saturday, the Terras were clearly keen to follow it up with a similar show at home but just 67 seconds after kick-off they found themselves behind.
Going straight for the jugular from the off, Hitchin caught the home side at sixes and sevens with keeper Simon Evans denying Zak Burke and Barry McConnell making a fine intervention to block John Frendo’s rebound.
However, the pressure continued and just moments later Frendo found space again to fire a left-footed shot into the far corner of the net to the disbelief of the Terras’ faithful.
It was a shocking start for Weymouth but they survived the brief onslaught that followed and then began to work their way into the game.
First, Dan Smith fired narrowly off target from distance before Ford raced cleaned through on 14 minutes, only to strike the crossbar when he really should have scored.
An equaliser was clearly on the cards and just seconds later Kyle Critchell sent Ford away again. This time the fleet-footed forward cut in from the left and made no mistake with a precise finish across visiting stopper Martin Bennett.
That strike should have settled the Terras down but the madness continued as Hitchin regained the lead just a minute later. This time Liam McGovern was afforded too much space on the left and when he picked out Burke, he beat Evans with a fine shot on the half turn from 12 yards.
Both defences were a shambles and on 18 minutes the hosts went close to squaring the game up again when Scott Walker found Ford, whose attempted lob fell just over the crossbar.
Frendo then shot straight at Evans at the other end before a period of calm finally gave both sets of supporters a chance to catch their breath.
A 15-minute period then quickly elapsed with very little incident before Weymouth turned up the heat again just before the break, with Smith jinking his way into the box and seeing his eventual effort hacked off the line by Dean Gilbert.
Walker then sent a close-range header straight at Bennett before referee Andrew Laver finally brought the half to a close.
Weymouth desperately needed to adopt a more measured approach at the start of the second period and that is exactly what materialised as Ford made it 2-2 on 47 minutes with a near-post header from Walker’s corner.
Suddenly the hosts were now completely on top and they began to create chance after chance. Ford wasted a great opportunity after a fine through ball from Smith before Walker was then denied by a flying save from Bennett.
Hitchin were living a charmed life but after Duff had headed against the crossbar moments later, Ford finally put his side ahead on 59 minutes by converting Sam Poole’s flick-on at the far post after a free-kick had caused havoc in the box.
Despite going in front, the Terras continued to ask all the questions and on 74 minutes they should have put the result beyond doubt when Ford raced away from the Hitchin defence yet again. However, a heavy touch forced the striker wide and when he crossed to the far post Ben Joyce was unable to convert from a tight angle.
Walker then wasted another gilt-edged chance, firing wide after Ford had robbed Lawrie Steward, before Hitchin very nearly nicked a point in the dying minutes when a goalmouth scramble saw Frendo have an effort blocked on the line by Ed Palmer.
It was a nerve-wracking end to a stunning game and the relief among the Terras’ faithful at the final whistle was all too evident.