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Hitchin Town 0-0 Kingstonian

When these two teams met at the same location in the FA Trophy in November, there was action right up until the final whistle. By the time this league encounter rolled around, a certain air of nothingness was in the air - with incidents severely limited. An accident on the nearby A1(M) meant that several important vehicles - the referee's car, the Kingstonian Supporters' Club's coach and Dave Clarke's car to name but three - were delayed, as was the kick-off. And when events got underway twenty minutes past the scheduled start, it hadn't even been worth the wait.

K's certainly made the best start, with a couple of long-range efforts coming close to troubling Nick Webb in the Hitchin goal, but it was on eleven minutes that the best chance of the evening presented itself. Liam Collins crossed from the right only for the ball to be blocked by Craig Rydehead. The ("fake") linesman (for he replaced the linesman who replaced the referee) was determined to make the most of his promoted position and flagged furiously for a penalty kick to Kingstonian.

Top Street

Greg Ball, fresh from his Saturday spot-kick success, stepped up and sent a poor effort to the goalkeeper's left. Webb guessed correctly and forced the ball away to keep the scoresheet blank.

Almost immediately Hitchin broke down to the other end of the field where Shaun Marshall was played in on the left. He stepped back behind Sean Thurgood and sent a shot across Lance Key towards the far post. His effort was slightly misjudged though, as it struck the post and bounced along the goal-line. Thankfully for K's Max Hustwick was on hand to clear.

For the remainder of the half, most K's fans were more interested in the reasons for the appearance of Farnborough's Graham Westley (below) at Top Street than the match itself. Kingstonian's new owner old manager told this author that he was there to watch "a player" and not a whole team. Which player remains to be seen - but he did strangely ask "which one is Craig Lewington?".

'Which one's Craig Lewington?'

Greg Ball, ably supported by Ronnie Green, had the best chances for the visitors, but some poor finishes and some neat defending - from Scott Cretton in particular - meant that nothing came of any.

At the other end, Thurgood and Hustwick were doing their best in the "who will partner Peter Barnsby?" contest, but as a pairing there was never the air of confidence exuded which is seen when the ex-Beaver is around. Still, they did their best to limit Hitchin's chances, and in fact did a fair job.

The home side were though presented with a golden chance of their own not long into the second half. Chris McMenamin played the ball into the area for substitute Robbie Simpson to run onto. Thurgood was covering, but a good turn from Simpson saw the ball played behind the defender. His momentum took him on though, and his wild lunge at the long-absent ball resulted in a prostate Simpson.

The "real" referee (having replaced the linesman who replaced him, at half-time) had no hesitation in pointing to the spot for the first time that evening and Marshall stepped up to face Key. The goalkeeper dived to his left, the ball went in the opposite direction, but struck the underside of the bar, bounced down and away to allow Thurgood to breath again.

Just to the left is the sweet shop - mmmmmmm

Three changes from Sedgley saw a different attitude from K's, with David Sadler, James Pinnock and Dave Clarke replacing Green, Lewington and Collins. Clarke and Pinnock in particular combined well on the right and on one occasion played in Ball to cross for Sadler on the edge of the six yard box. A good challenge by Stuart Beevor thwarted the substitute.

The final ten minutes saw something of an onslaught from Hitchin, with Lance Key pulling off two or three fantastic saves. Simpson went closest when he headed a free-kick (awarded for an horrendous foul by Billy Mead) towards the top corner. Key not only got his hands to the ball but also held on under pressure from two in-rushing forwards.

Injury time saw a ball played across the face of Key's goal, seemingly giving two Hitchin forwards the chance to score a late winner, but neither could stretch their limbs far enough forward to connect, and so ended a pretty lifeless match.

A horrible pitch certainly didn't help matters, but one can't help but feel that playing in a league with only one promotion place and one relegation place (seemingly already filled by Harrow Borough) is a huge part of the reason why this mid-February encounter was meaningless from the start. The sooner things are changed at this level the better - for both players and supporters.

Tue 12th Feb 2002
Top Field
Isthmian League Premier
Hitchin Town0
1Lance Key
2Billy Mead
3Mark Jones
4Sean Thurgood
5Max Hustwick
6Liam CollinsCautioned15
7Bashiru Alimi
8Craig Lewington12
9Greg Ball
10Ronnie Green14
11Craig Rocastle
12Dave Clarke8
14David Sadler10
15James Pinnock6
Man of the Match
Lance Key
Lance Key
Match Report By
Gary Ekins