Hemel Hempstead Town 2 Kettering Town 3
Friendly 30th January 2021
Match Report by Allan Mitchell
Hemel entertained Kettering in a quickly arranged and behind-closed-doors friendly due to National League’s North and South locking down for two weeks.
On a bitterly cold afternoon both sides contributed to some decent football on a fast surface and the final score really summed up Hemel’s season so far, lots of possession and chances but they were guilty of switching off at vital moments which ended up costing them the game.
The Tudors took the lead in the first half when JJ Lacey did well down the left, crossing to Matty Bateman, his shot was blocked, but it fell kindly to Sam Mantom who drove home from close range.
A strange refereeing decision allowed Kettering back into the game, he adjudged the Tudors' keeper to have held onto the ball for too long and awarded a free-kick inside the box. It was driven home to level the scores, and right on half-time a poor clearance was seized upon, and the Poppies took full advantage, scoring again with the last kick of the half.
Hemel dominated the second period, but a mixture of good goalkeeping, some desperate defending and some wayward finishing saw Kettering hanging on.
It looked like it was going to be another one of those days until Samir Carruthers levelled the scores with a superb drive into the top corner from 20-yards-out. It was no more than the Tudors deserved, and they pressed forward in search of a winner. Bateman is getting no luck at all in front of goal at the moment, and he saw two great efforts well saved, and another cleared off the line before Kettering grabbed a late winner with a counter-attack that exposed the Hemel backline.
We are not sure if this will be the last game of the season with so much uncertainty as regards resumption of both the National League North and South. There is yet another meeting next week, and we will know more on Tuesday when the league will decide if we will resume.
Chairman Dave Boggins has consistently said that the club are in a good position to continue playing, having budgeted carefully for this eventuality.
Its been incredibly frustrating for the players and everyone behind the scenes at the club but all teams are in the same position and speaking on the Tudor Talk YouTube channel earlier this week, Manager Lee and assistant Steve agreed that we have never seen the like of this before and they hope we will never see it again.
The constant “stop/start” has been difficult, especially as the side had started to get some momentum going just before Christmas. A couple of defeats then followed that break, so the club have lost ground again, but the players have been working incredibly hard throughout and they are confident we can move back up the table if we start playing again.
With the promise of the vaccines on the horizon lets hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and everyone can get back to some sort of normality, sooner rather than later.
Hopefully, the National League will be able to come to a resolution that will allow the two divisions to continue. With one or two clubs now voicing their preferred intentions to resume, things may be looking up. It's a shame that it has eventually come down to a matter of finances rather than anything else.