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Hitchin Town 0 Poole Town 0

Saturday, April 9 2016

This tense top-of the table clash ended all square in terms of goals with neither side able to get the decisive breakthrough. The game also ended with neither side having the full complement of players on the field as the referee awarded two red cards to Poole and one to Hitchin. Hitchin had the best chance to break the deadlock but Nick Hutchings saved Lewis Rolfe's 61st minute penalty kick. 
Hitchin's only change from the Kettering match was the return of Kane Smith from his recent illness, with Will Wright taking a seat on the bench. 
After a cagey opening period punctuated with more free kicks than chances, Hitchin began to get into their stride with a number of moves down the flanks. Pettefer did well to clear a Smith cross before it reached Brett Donnelly, while another move initiated by Smith saw a low McNamara run just behind the target man. The Dolphins' defence also had to be alert to scramble away a cross from Callum Donnelly. 
At the other end, a shot on the turn by Lee was deflected for a corner from which Brooks shot wide. Lee also shot wide after a jinking run by Roberts took him past Smith and Webb before laying the ball off. 
However it was the Canaries that continued to make most of the running during the first half as Hutchings saved a long range effort from Brett Donnelly, while Dan Webb fired over from a corner. Donnelly was also ruled offside after being put through on goal by McNamara. 
HALF TIME Hitchin Town 0 Poole Town 0  
The pattern of the second half matched the first as an early deep cross from Smith was nodded wide by Callum Donnelly, although the captain was under pressure from a defender. McNamara also forced a save from Hutchings with a scuffed shot from a Donnelly free kick. 
Charlie Horlock still needed to be alert as he first parried away a Brooks header from a Devlin free kick and then dashed out to block Roberts after the forward had embarked on another mazy run.  
The key moment in the game came just past the hour. A Canaries free kick eventually fell to Dan Webb at the back post. His shot was on target but central defender Walker was adjudged to have handled it. The referee awarded a red card and a penalty. Lewis Rolfe's penalty was low and to the bottom corner but Hutchings made a fine save to keep the ball out. 
Hitchin had almost half an hour to make the most of a one man advantage but this proved easier said than done as Poole defended in numbers and sought to snatch something on the break. 
Hutchings had an easy save to make from a Webb header at a Hitchin corner while Lee tried to catch Horlock out of his goal with a shot from distance but the Canary keeper got back to cover and save easily. Rolfe lost possession to Gillespie leading to a Brooks shot being deflected for a corner. Then both Walster and Brett Donnelly got valuable blocks in to protect the Hitchin goal. 
At the other end, McNamara - playing his last game before a six match suspension took effect - ran at the Dolphins' defence but his shot was blocked. 
With five minutes to go, Poole had to resort to nothing but defence after Devlin picked up his second yellow of the game for simulation as he tried to get Lucas Kirkpatrick booked for the second time.  
Hitchin had one final opportunity as Smith picked up the second ball following a cross field delivery from Walster. His dipping shot looked to be goalbound but hit the crossbar to the frustration of most the season's best crowd of 712. 
It only remained for the referee to issue one further red card to Walster for a challenge in which he had a foot up. The final whistle went moments later with Poole celebrating a "backs to the wall" point and Hitchin needing to get back to winning ways again on Monday against Chesham having dropped one place in the table. Mark Burke will be able to welcome back Alasan Ann but will not be able to call upon McNamara or Kirkpatrick.  
FINAL SCORE Hitchin Town 0 Poole Town 0 
Hitchin Town 
Horlock, Smith, Walster, Bickerstaff, Webb, Rolfe, McNamara, C Donnelly, B Donnelly, Burns, Kirkpatrick; Subs - Wright, Johnson, Brooks, Barnes, Lench 
Poole Town 
Hutchings, Tallack, Spetch, Walker, Whisken, Pettefer, Burbridge, Devlin, Lee, Brooks, Roberts; Subs - Holgate, Grainger, Dickson, Gleeson (for Roberts),Gillespie (for Lee) 
Red cards 
Hitchin Town – Walster 
Poole Town – Walker, Devlin 
Yellow cards 
Hitchin Town – Bickerstaff, Kirkpatrick 
Poole Town – Spetch, Devlin 
Attendance - 712 
Hitchin Town MOTM - Jonny McNamara