The Canaries and the Poppies cancelled each other out in a game of few clear chances.
It was not much reward for fans although they might have feared this result as it was the third successive goalless draw between the two sides. It was also scant reward for the Top Field ground staff who had worked hard to make the game possible in freezing conditions, with heaters and tarpaulins thawing out the Fishponds Road goalmouth almost up until kick off.
With Trey Charles and Ben Walster suspended, Mark Burke included Kavan Cotter and Toby Syme at full back, with Dan Webb & Lewis Rolfe in the centre of defence, and Josh Bickerstaff in front of them. Connor Vincent started up front with Elliot Bailey & Jonny McNamara out wide.
Chances were at a premium throughout the game although the Canaries threatened early with Vincent running selflessly and Cotter overlapping well. The best chance fell to McNamara on 12 minutes but he failed to get enough purchase on a Cotter cross as he darted in at the back post. Imposing central defender Marshall was also hurried into a back header while under pressure as Webb tried to convert a Hitchin free kick while Vincent also tested the Kettering keeper Paul White.
Kettering had a chance when a Ben Toseland corner found Aaron O’Connor but he made poor contact with his header, while Rene Howe had a low shot saved by Michael Johnson. The experienced striker did have a golden opportunity on the half hour. Hitchin failed to clear a freekick which ran to Howe in space at the far post. However he got under his shot and curled the ball over the crossbar.
As the half ended, Charlie Smith fired wide while at the other end Johnson tidied up his own poor clearance when he saved well to deny O’Connor.
Half time – Hitchin Town 0 Kettering Town 0
Hitchin made a change at the break, bringing on Jay Dowie for Smith but the visitors stepped up the pace.
Marshall wasted a freekick in a dangerous position after Howe was brought down, firing well over. O’Connor’s pace was a threat but he consistently fell foul of the offside flag. On the one occasion he did stay onside, his initial run was halted by a saving tackle by Rolfe, The ball though broke to Kettering in front of goal only for O’Connor and Ben Milnes to get in each other’s way!
Vincent continued to provide an outlet for Hitchin but the chances dried up while Kettering pushed forward. The visitors pushed Toseland further forward and he had one effort diverted for a corner while Gary Stohrer fired wide. O’Connor set up Toseland for one final shot which also went wide but the game was destined to finish goalless.
The match was not helped by some dubious refereeing decisions that stoked the tension – two melees disrupted the game – as well as incensing both sets of fans. It can be said that the officials are having a good game if both sides are unhappy with them. That was not the case on this occasion.
On a day when “Tales of the Town” was published, recounting 150 years of footballing history in Hitchin, this match will struggle to remain in the memory for 150 days. The Canaries remain in 7th spot in the league table but with more games played than the sides above them.
Full time – Hitchin Town 0 Kettering Town 0
Hitchin Town – Johnson, Cotter, Syme, Rolfe, Webb, Bickerstaff, Bailey, Kirkpatrick, Vincent, NcNamara, Smith; subs – Donnelly (for McNamara), Dowie (for Smith), Hartley, Byrne
Kettering Town – White, Bateman, Toseland, Marshall, Mulligan, Richens, Stohrer, O’Connor, Howe, Milnes, Hoeness; subs – Akanbi, Thomas (for Hoeness), Stevens (for Howe), Solkhon (for Milnes), Snow
Hitchin Town – Kirkpatrick, Vincent
Kettering Town – Hoeness, Richens
Sponsors MOTM – Connor Vincent
Attendance – 469