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Kettering Town 1 Hitchin Town 1

Wednesday, September 10 2003

A refereeing blunder five minutes from time cost Hitchin an important victory at Rockingham Road, but the Canaries can be satisfied with their evening's work in front of a near-1,000 voiciferous crowd.

In the post-match enquiry, the referee intimated that there had been a misunderstanding between the match officials and that a Kettering man may have been offside when the ball rolled into the net. It was not the only strange decision by a referee who has been tipped to climb the officiating ladder.

But it was hard on Hitchin, who were rarely troubled for 90 minutes after taking a first half lead through Carl Drew.

Canaries manager Robbie O'Keefe rang the changes once more, mainly to make way for Dean Brennan, who has been suspended since the start of the season. Brennan added his usual determination and vision to the side and Hitchin had the better of the early action.

They took the lead in the 30th minute when a cross from Brennan was allowed to run free to Drew who shot low into the net.

Hitchin goalkeeper James Robinson did well to stop Kettering when they did break through, notably when he pushed Ian King's piledriver for a corner.

Two minutes into the restart, though, Matt Nolan should have extended Hitchin's lead, but he hesitated as he closed in to meet Brennan's through ball and his header went wide.

Despite considerable pressure from Kettering, the Hitchin goal seemed intact. The Kettering rearguard looked decidedly shaky and vulnerable to the Canaries counter-attacks. For the entire game, Hitchin's battling approach frustrated the restless home crowd.

But as time ran out, Kettering saved a point. A cross by King was not cleared and the ball fell to the falling Paschalis, who sent a tame effort past the unsighted Robinson. There was some delay as the referee consulted his linesman, but the goal stood, amid protests from the Hitchin bench.

Hitchin will be pleased with a well-earned point, but Kettering, who were named as one of the pre-season favourites, scarcely looked like title contenders on the evidence of this display.

Hitchin: Robinson, Bone, Rydeheard, Frater, Ayres, Osborn, Williams, Brennan, Drew (Mills 70), Parker (Maynard 67), Nolan

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