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Hitchin Town 0 Kettering Town 0

Saturday, November 19 2016

Mark Burke was happy to take a point and maintain Hitchin’s unbeaten run as the Canaries and the Poppies cancelled each other out in an entertaining goalless draw at Top Field.

Hitchin’s only change was an enforced one as rookie keeper Liam Gooch, on loan from Luton Town, made his senior debut in place of the injured Michael Johnson.

Both Gooch and his opposite number Dean Snedker were tested early on. The Kettering keeper had an easy task collecting from Lucas Kirkpatrick while Gooch got down to save a shot on the turn from Spencer Weir-Daley. Snedker was tested much more seriously by an effort from distance by Robbie Burns and had to prevent his initial save from bobbling into the net.

The game flowed as both teams built attacks. Weir-Daley shot wide across goal after robbing Dan Webb, while Liam Canavan fired wide after being well set up by Weir-Daley and Wilson Carvalho. 

For Hitchin, Kirkpatrick was off target after good work by Burns and Brett Donnelly. The number 9 then had two bites of the cherry as he tried a long range shot which saw the ball blocked and rebound to him before firing wide from closer range. Kirkpatrick then put Callum Donnelly through on goal but the ball was shepherded to safety by Gary Mulligan and his keeper. 

Canavan was at the centre of things when he handled the ball and then got carded for delaying a quickly taken freekick. When it was taken more slowly, Lewis Rolfe played it to Burns who fired over from a very tight angle.

Apart from one moment when Gooch left his line - where Will Wright covered - the young keeper showed confidence, good judgement and clean handling. As the half closed, he gathered a Lewis Hornby corner and set up a counter-attack through Kane Smith and Burns before Callum Donnelly fired wide.

Half time - Hitchin Town 0 Kettering Town 0

If the first half had been evenly contested, the start of the second half was one-way traffic as the Poppies piled on the pressure. Gooch and his defence needed to be alert and the keeper collected again from Weir-Daley, while Webb hacked clear a cross from Carvalho and James Haran headed the resulting corner wide.

Brett Donnelly was cutting a more solitary figure in this half and he was substituted by Matt Lench. The change altered the focus of Hitchin’s play as they tried to build momentum again and Burns nearly connected with a Lench cross.

Kettering were still pushing forward and Gooch did well to save with his feet as Weir-Daley tried to finish off a dangerous run. Rolfe also defended well as he read a through ball aimed at Rene Howe and just got ahead to nod back to Gooch.

Howe was influential in Kettering’s build up but also tried to get on the scoresheet only for Gooch to pull off two fine saves to deny the striker. The Poppies also called for a penalty as the ball appeared to connect with Wright’s arm but no spot kick was given.

Hitchin had though withstood the worst of the Kettering pressure and sought to snatch a late winner. Rolfe launched an attack which ended with Lench just failing to connect with a Smith cross. Snedker also gathered the ball from Webb first from a Canary freekick and then from a corner. 

However after those incidents and a final clearance by Gooch from a Kettering freekick, both sides settled for maintaining their respective runs of good form after such a tight match.

Burns attacks

Full time - Hitchin Town 0 Kettering Town 0

Hitchin Town - Gooch, Wright, Walster, Bickerstaff, Webb, Rolfe, Smith, Callum Donnelly, Brett Donnelly, Burns, Kirkpatrick; subs - Lench (for Brett Donnelly), Brooks, Spence, King, Clarke
Kettering Town - Snedker, Hicks, Langdon, Mulligan, Haran, Malone, Carvalho, Weir-Daley, Howe, Canavan, Hornby; subs - Brighton (for Hornby), Solkhon (for Canavan), Westwood (for Weir-Daley), White 

Yellow cards 
Hitchin Town - 
Kettering Town - Canavan, Haran

Hitchin Town MOTM - Robbie Burns

Attendance - 451

Colin, photo by Peter Else