Match Report: Poppies 0 – 4 Hitchin Town

Kettering Town v Hitchin Town

Pitching In Southern League Premier Division Central

Tuesday 16th September 2023   7:45pm


Kettering Town  Hitchin Town
1 Billy Johnson    1 Charlie Horlock   (Capt) 
2 Owen Cochrane    2 Bradley Bell          
6 Lewis White  Off 46 3 Layne Eadie         Off 65
5 Kelvin Langmead     4 Stan Georgiou            
11 Rhys Sharpe  (Capt) 5 Ciaren Jones   
19 O’Shane Stewart Off 55 6 Lewis Barker
4 Harry Reilly   7 Kye Tearle  
12 Dan Jarvis   8 Steve Gleeson         
10 Sam Bennett   9 Dan Idiakhoa Off 70
9 Tyrone Lewthwaite   10 Issac Galliford Off 76
20 Will Mellors-Blair  Off 72 11 Finlay Wilkinson  
  Substitutes  On 46   Substitutes
3 Ben Toseland    12 Jack Snelus       On 65
15 Huw Dawson  On 55 14 Daniel Emovon
16 Luca Purse    15 Temilola Akinbusoye On 76
17 Josiah Bridgeman   16 Christopher Khoo On 70
18 Tom Scott On 72 17 Henry Silver   


Referee: Carl Donaghey        Assistants:  Jack Hobbs and Scott Hanna

After a distinctly lack-lustre performance at the weekend against the bottom placed club without a single point at home with Kettering rescuing a point with a late goal in added time. All of those connected with Kettering would be looking for a vastly improved performance. Tonight’s game would be the first of back to back games against Hitchin in a repeat of what occurred last season, with a home game followed by a FA cup tie at the visitor’s ground. We entertained unbeaten King’s Lynn with a tightly fought 1-0 victory before being soundly beaten 6-1 at The Walks. Hitchin would present a stern test for Andy Leese’s stuttering team sitting eighth in the table on fourteen points, double that accrued by Kettering.

Kettering presented a different look for the game lining up in a 4-3-3 formation. Billy Johnson returned after injury giving Josh Blunkell the night off. Ben Toseland, substituted on Saturday through  injury, would start on the bench. Huw Dawson would also start on the bench taking a rest after being an ever present starter up to this point in the season. His role as holding midfielder would be filled by O’Shane Stewart, who would be missing the FA Cup tie due to his dismissal at Long Eaton. Dan Jarvis was also returning from injury playing alongside Reilly in the middle of the park. Sam Bennett returned to the starting line up for the first time since the Redditch game but had made three substitute appearances, coming on for Josiah Bridgeman who dropped to the bench. The front three would be completed by Will Mellors-Blair, his first start since August.

 Two hours prior to kick-off there was a heavy downpour in Burton Latimer but this had stopped before the players started warming up. It would leave the lush surface wet with the ball skidding across the surface. Apart from that it was perfect conditions for football with a mild evening and negligible wind.

 Kettering lined up facing the Tin Hat and the home supporters in the IMK stand hand started to make their way towards the Tin Hat, but they had jumped the gun as the teams changed ends and they had to retrace their steps back to their starting positions as Hitchin, in all purple kicked, off defending the IMK stand. 

 Bell, the Hitchin right-back, had an early shot from distance but it was wide of the mark. Neither side produced any threat on their opponent’s goal within the first ten minutes. Hitchin approach work was good with lots of movement and inter-passing but only to be let down with a poor final ball. Kettering moved the ball well after eleven minutes when Lewthwaite held the ball up well in the middle of the park before touching it back to Jarvis. Dan sent a great ball forward for Bennett to run onto who then cut inside shaping up to fire in a left foot shot but Jones stuck to his task and blocked the shot shortly after it left Bennett’s foot. 

 The next quarter hour of play saw plenty of passes completed by both sides but they were both let down in that when getting close to goal the attacks fizzled out without troubling either keeper. Hitchin looked to have had the better of the game but it was Kettering who won the first corner of the game following a Sharpe long throw but the set piece came to nothing. 

Just before the half hour mark Sharpe had a shot from the edge of the area but went straight into the arms of the keeper. Horlock quickly distributed the ball as Hitchin swiftly moved the ball from one end of the park to the other. Bell out wide picked out Gleeson in the box with a ball to feet but the Hitchin man with time and space wastefully sent the ball high over the bar.

 Three minutes later Galliford weaved his way through the Kettering defence after receiving the ball from Eadie. Having cleared the last defender and just the keeper to beat White came from nowhere to make a last ditch saving tackle. Hitchin regained possession and came straight back at Kettering working the ball out to Tearle who sent a low ball into Bell lurking on the six yard line. With his back to goal and Langmead tight on his back Bell flicked the ball with his heel which passed through Langmead’s legs, past the unsighted keeper and into the back of the net. 0-1 Hitchin Town 32 mins

 Hitchin kept up the pressure with two corners looking to press home their advantage but they were successfully defended by Kettering. Kettering were fortunate when Idiakhoa had a shot blocked by Langmead which ballooned up into the air and, with Johnson beaten having dived to cover the shot, saw the ball loop over the bar. 

 The home fans had to wait until the final five minutes of the half for Kettering’s first real shot at goal. Stewart threaded the ball through to Lewthwaite on the edge of the penalty area with his back to goal. Ty, closely marked by Barker, took a touch and turned the defender generating half a yard of space firing in a left footed shot which passed narrowly wide.

 In the additional minute played at end of the first half Wilkinson drew a good save from Billy Johnson with an effort from distance.

 Half Time: Kettering Town 0  Hitchin Town 1

 Andy Leese was forced into a change at half time as Lewis White was unable to continue and he was replaced by Ben Toseland. Whatever the Hitchin manager said to his team at half-time was inspiring as within a minute of the second half starting they had doubled their lead. Georgiou spread the ball out wide to Eadie the left back in acres of space. He fed the ball inside to Wilkinson who played it back to Eadie who picked out Gleeson in the middle. He tried to turn the ball goalwards but it was blocked by Langmead. Fortunately for the visitors the ball went straight to the feet of Idiakhoa who looked to have missed the opening by not hitting the ball first time with his left foot, but he wrong footed his marker by switching the ball onto his right foot to fire it home just inside the post. 0-2 Hitchin Town 46 mins

 Hitchin could now smell blood and started applying pressure on the Kettering goal looking to seal the win early in the half and save themselves for Saturday. 

The game got it’s first yellow card after fifty-one minutes when Eadie was booked following a foul on Cochrane right by the corner flag. The free kick was over hit and the ball came to Reilly way out on the open side touchline. His attempt to put the ball back into the middle was partially blocked and cleared by Hitchin. Cochrane challenged by Wilkinson headed the ball away but only to Idiakhoa who raced through leaving Stewart in his dust. Cochrane had to move over to cover the skilful forward but this left Wilkinson unmarked as the rest of Kettering’s back four had been forward for the free-kick. Idiakhoa saw Wilkinson alone and passed the ball through to him to some ten yards out who could then pick his spot to beat Johnson. 0-3 Hitchin Town 52 mins

 Kettering tried to respond as Mellors-Blair fed the ball forward to Lewthwaite who saw his shot blocked by his own teammate. Almost straight after Kettering made their second substitution with Huw Dawson replacing O’Shane Stewart, the experiment of him playing as the holding midfielder not proving to be successful. Within two minutes of coming on Dawson was in the book for a supposed late contact on Tearle, who whilst lying on the ground was trying hard to suppress the smirk on his face as he had conned the referee.

 Just after the hour mark Hitchin increased their lead following a mistake by Johnson. Johnson clearing a back pass from Langmead sent the ball straight to Eadie inside his own half. The defender returned the ball back from where it came from. Johnson ran ten yards out of his penalty area in an attempt to head the ball but missed the ball completely as it bounced over his head. Galliford could not believe his luck though as he ran onto the loose ball reaching it before Toseland who was racing back. The forward almost fluffed his chance though as with the whole of the goal to aim at relied on the ball hitting the inside of the far post before rebounding into the net. 0-4 Hitchin Town 63 mins

 Hitchin made their first substitution after sixty-five minutes when Eadie who was receiving treatment was replaced by Jack Snelus. Five minutes later Kettering were relieved to see the dangerous Idiakhoa withdrawn in favour of Khoo, no doubt keeping him fresh to wreak similar havoc to Kettering on Saturday. Two minutes later Kettering made their final change with Tom Scott replacing Will Mellors-Blair.

 With just over a quarter of an hour to go Kettering had the chance for a consolation goal when Jarvis threaded the ball through for Lewthwaite to leave him 1v1 against Horlock but the keeper was off his line quickly to smother the shot.

 Hitchin made their final substitution on when Temilola Akinbusoye replaced Issac Galliford.

  Bennett had not given up though and with ten minutes to go robbed Tearle who had moved to left-back deep inside Hitchin’s half. He took the ball to the touchline before drilling a hard low cross across the face of the goal. The ball travelled all the way across the box to Lewthwaite at the far post but he could not get a meaningful touch on the ball and sent it wide of the post from about two feet out. 

 Kettering managed to survive the final ten minutes and four additional minutes without further embarrassment as Hitchin played out the clock without exerting themselves.

 Full Time: Kettering Town 0  Hitchin Town  4

Personnel changes will need to be made with Stewart (suspension) and Mellors-Blair (cup-tied) unavailable. This defeat brought an end to a six match unbeaten run.

Kettering Town yellow cards: Dawson – foul

Hitchin Town yellow cards:  Eadie – foul 

Attendance: 631

Elgood’s Brewery Kettering Town Man-of-the-Match – O’Shane Stewart.