Hill the hero as Harpenden celebrate in style

Harpenden Town celebrate their 120th anniversary with victory over St Albans City Reserves

Harpenden Town 4

St Albans City Reserves 2

JIMMY Hill’s third hat-trick of the season ensured Harpenden Town’s 120th anniversary celebrations went off with a bang in front of a bumper crowd at Rothamsted Park.

Hill, who now has 28 goals in 16 games this season, was in lethal form for Town helping to settle an entertaining and feisty local derby in the home side’s favour.

Greeted onto the pitch by the cheerleaders of Roundwood Park School, both sides started the contest in confident mood as they looked to keep in touch with league leaders London Colney.

Some neat interplay between Dom Petrucci and Rob Quattromini created an opening for Ben Luck but the ball wouldn’t sit down and the St Albans forward blazed over the bar.

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It was the visitors who drew first blood 19 minutes in when Reece Yorke rose highest to head home at the far post but their lead lasted all of 60 seconds as Hill fired an immediate equaliser, outmuscling City goalkeeper David Bailey to turn the ball home.

Hill had the ball in the back of the net for a second time in the first half when he connected with Neil Doctor’s free kick but Harpenden’s muscular centre-forward was rightly penalised for a foul on Bailey.

Bob Fowler’s team felt they should have had a penalty when Mark Hitchcock raced into the penalty area and tumbled under Bailey’s challenge but referee Francis was unmoved by the home side’s protestations.

City Reserves nearly handed their hosts the lead in comical fashion early in the second half. A poor goal kick by Bailey was returned with interest by Harpenden sending City captain Mark Campbell racing back towards his own goal. With Bailey haring off his line to clear the danger, Campbell lobbed the bal over his own goalkeeper forcing Sermet Karagozlu to hack the ball off the line and save both Campbell and Bailey huge embarassment.

The deadlock remained until just after the hour mark when St Albans went ahead in highly controversial circumstances.

Campbell’s free kick from out by the left touchline evaded the grasp of goalkeeper Matt Lord and fell kindly to Ben Luck at the far post. The City forward sent the ball back across the face of goal only for it to hit the post and come back out.

The visitors were adamant the ball had crossed the line but play continued for another 30 seconds before the linesman on the far side raised a belated flag. After a brief discussion with his assistant, referee Francis awarded the goal, much to the frustration of the home side.

It may have been a decision that worked in Town’s favour though as that perceived injustice galvanised Fowler’s troops and they were back on level terms just five minutes later as Hill headed home unchallenged at the far post for his second goal of the afternoon.

The game then opened up as both sides went in search of a winner with Matt Taylor going close for St Albans. The visitors broke quickly from a Harpenden attack sending Taylor racing clear. The talented young midfielder easily waltzed past the despairing dive of goalkeeper Lord but from an acute angle, and with his footing unsure, the youngster fired wide of the target.

It proved a costly miss as Harpenden went ahead for the first time in the contest with just four minutes left on the clock. City were guilty of allowing Adam Smith far too much space on the edge of the penalty area to collect a pass from the left, and he stepped inside the challenge of his man and sent a low shot into the bottom corner of Bailey’s goal.

The home side weren’t finished there though and Hill provided the coup de grace when he latched onto a ball into the left channel and unleashed a rocket of a shot past Bailey to send the bumper crowd wild and complete a wonderful hat-trick.

Harpenden Town: Lord; Warren, Taylor, Dunne-Jones, May; Denys, Green �, Doctor, Smith, Hitchcock; Hill.

St Albans City Reserves: Bailey; Karagozlu, Yorke, Campbell �, Bishop; R Quattromini, Jones, Fry, Taylor, Luck; Petrucci.

Referee: L. Francis

Att: 110