King’s Lynn Town end the year sharing the spoils with title-chasing Kettering
King's Lynn Town played out their first goalless draw under manager Ian Culverhouse as title chasers Kettering paid them the ultimate respect at The Walks.
The Poppies are in a two-horse race with Stourbridge at the top of the Southern Premier Central Division, with Lynn's target a play-off spot.
But the visitors know how dangerous the Linnets can be, and made their intentions clear from the start: foe them, a draw would be an more than acceptable way of seeing out 2018.
And in a game devoid of any real opportunities, that's what they got. The synopsis is easy: Kettering were better in the first half, Lynn better in the second. The difference is that Lynn are down to the bare bones player-wise: Aaron Jones is awaiting surgery on a knee injury but played all of the second half, while striker Harry Limb was sent out on loan to Pinchbeck on Friday - just before Charlie Clarke reported a thigh injury.
Culverhouse is in the market for players, but says the club won't be held to ransom: in the meantime, they will rely on a bit of luck to get through.
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Lynn's early troubles on the field of play were caused by Ben Milnes and Rhys Hoeness – although when they swapped flanks they became much less effective.
Kettering's big striker Adam Cunnington - who shadowed Lynn midfielder Ryan Jarvis for fully 90 minutes – needed treatment with the game just minutes old after a coming-together with Ryan Fryatt, which stoked up the temperature a little - not that this fixture ever needs it.
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Kettering looked bright early on, Gary Stohrer testing Alex Street with a shot straight at the keeper and Hoeness troubling right back Jordan Richards.
Kettering's Michael Richens picked up on a loose ball by Jarvis, drove forward and put one just past Street's near post.
Lynn gradually began to settle, with Michael Gash heading over from Michael Clunan's corner on 15 minutes, although Aaron O'Connor should have done better at the other end moments later when he sliced well wide.
The visitors were enjoying the bulk of the possession, stifling Lynn's creative influences.
Dion Kelly-Evans flashed a shot wide of Street's right post as Kettering looked the more likely to make the breakthrough.
Richards saw yellow for pulling back O'Connor on 35 minutes and minutes later the Kettering player headed over from a free-kick.
Richens went in the book for a foul on Chris Henderson as half-time approached, an interval the Linnets needed to work out a way of getting something from the game.
Lynn brought on Jones for Craig Parker for the second half as they moved to 3-4-3 then made their second switch soon after, Ryan Hawkins replacing Richards and injecting some attacking pace.
Nice work between Gash, Henderson and Frazer Blake-Tracy earned a corner and lifted home fans' spirits and produced arguably the first little spell of pressure around the Kettering area.
Lynn were looking more dangerous now, Henderson forcing his way into the area and then seeing a shot blocked by a diving defender.
Suddenly the tide appeared to be turning – Lynn were crisper in the tackle, bullish on the ball.
Kelly went into the book for scything down Hawkins, although Lynn rather wasted the free-kick and the momentum that should have gone with it.
Kettering were losing their cool at times, and Lynn were furious when Hoeness tumbled in the box, claiming he had been clipped by Ryan Fryatt. The referee gave nothing - not even a word for the Kettering man who, moments later, was booked for a foul on Henderson.
It was a battle royale in the latter stages - and in the end neither side would budge.
King's Lynn Town: Street, Richards (Hawkins 54), McAuley, Fryatt, Blake-Tracy, Jarvis, Clunan, Parker (Jones 46), Henderson, Gash, Marriott. Subs: Castellan, Bastock.
Kettering: White, Kelly-Evans, Stanley, Stohrer, Towers, Richens, Meikle (Solkhon 80), O'Connor (Holman 65), Cunnington, Milnes (Kelly 57), Hoeness. Subs: Graham, Rowe-Turner.
Ref: G Laflin (Stowmarket)