The pre-season fixtures are coming thick and fast with Kettering just edging Hemel in a tight affair on what turned out to be a chilly evening at Latimer Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the National League's 'Elite Status' which prevents supporters attending any games between 'Elite' clubs at the present time.
Hemel came into the game off the back of a much improved performance at National League Premier Division side Torquay at the weekend and National League North side Kettering were always going to be a good test, with The Poppies having won, drawn and lost in their pre-season fixtures before tonight’s match.
Tudors boss, Lee Bircham was, as is the norm in warm up games, going to mix things up and, just like the Torquay match it affected the way things panned out, with Hemel looking the better side in the first period, solid at the back whilst creating chances up top but falling off the pace somewhat in the second.
Matty Bateman had a decent effort for the Tudors early on but his shot from the edge of the box went straight to the keeper. Bateman had a better opportunity on 15 minutes after some good build up play but this time he skied his effort over the bar, then minutes later Reggie Young did well down the left and flashed the ball across the face of the goal, it evaded everyone and it was the lively Bateman again who managed to get a touch on the ball but it skidded wide of the target.
Kettering’s first real shot of the game came after 22 minutes when Forest was given some space inside the box and he wasted no time in getting a shot away but Dean Snedker did superbly pushing the ball away one handed.
The home side were forcing the game a bit more as the half progressed, forcing a number of corners and also utilising a very decent long throw but the Hemel back line looked solid and kept them at bay.
As the interval approached Hemel created more chances, Reece Beckles-Richards shooting wide after beating his man, then Young chose to shoot but pulled his shot when Deon Moore was well placed inside the box. Beckles-Richards, who had a good first half did well again down the left before crossing to Jake Howells but he couldn’t direct his header on target and it was cleared.
HT 0 – 0
Hemel should have gone into to the break a couple of goals to the good but the old saying “if you don’t take your chances” came back to haunt them very quickly in the second period. Bircham made three changes, bringing on Lacey, Webb and Perkins for Beckles- Richards, Moore and Jefford and it appeared to affect their concentration somewhat as Kettering took the lead just two minutes in. After the composed first half defensive performance a lapse at the back after a corner allowed Forest to find himself with time and space to chest the ball down before slotting home.
To be fair Hemel responded well to this early setback and just a minute later, a superb through ball from Lacey put Bateman through on goal. As the keeper tried to close him down he shaped to curl the ball into the top corner but elected to hit it with power rather than guide it home and it flew high over the stand, it really should have been 1-1 and game on.
With further substitutions from both sides, it all became somewhat disjointed although Kpohomouh almost caught the keeper out when his cross caught in the wind and looked to be dropping in under the bar, but the Kettering goalminder managed to get a hand on it and push it over.
Then Bateman chipped a ball into Lacey at the back post who looked as though he would equalise, only to see a defender just beat him to the header with the goal gaping. After this chances were few and far between and the game fizzled out, with neither side creating anything of note, apart from a late looping header from Kettering that bounced off the top of the bar.
Another good workout for Birchy’s Boys and they will be hoping to find their scoring boots in the next game, which will be another tough test, also against another National League North side, Brackley Town this coming Saturday. Unfortunately as its National league opposition the game will be behind closed doors again.
Hemel: 1: Dean Snedker 2:Daniel Akubiune 3:Ryan Sellers 4:Jake Howells © 5:Ryan Kinnane 6:Ben Jefford 7:Reece Beckles-Richards 8:Jacob Cook 9:Deon Moore 10:Matt Bateman 11:Reggie Young. Subs: Lacey, Boness, Kpohomouh, Perkins, Noel-Williams, Webb, Ajayi, Bombelnga.