POOLE Town closed the gap on Southern Premier leaders Corby to four points following a 2-2 draw against Hitchin Town at Tatnam.

Dolphins had trailed to a Dan Webb close-range effort before strikes from Richard Gillespie and Will Spetch either side of the break put the hosts in front.

However, Ian Rees lashed home the equaliser on the hour to deny Dolphins their first victory since March 28.

Corby’s 2-1 defeat at Truro meant Poole gained ground on the table-toppers.

Dolphins boss Tom Killick made two changes to the side that had suffered defeat 3-2 at Cirencester in midweek, with Steve Devlin and Lewis Lindsay brought in for Luke Roberts and Harrison Gilkes.

Poole made a positive start and Devlin made sure keeper Charlie Horlock’s mind was on the job inside 60 seconds with a well-struck effort from range.

However, Hitchin forged in front with only their second attack in the sixth minute.

A short corner from Callum Donnelly was prodded hopefully into the danger zone by Simon Martin and, with no clearance forthcoming, centre-half Webb stabbed into the net from close range.

Dolphins looked dazed and it took a fine intervention from Nick Hutchings to prevent the extension of the lead, the stopper sliding in to clear as Jonny McNamara homed in on a loose ball.

A change of linesman provided some off-pitch entertainment while there was little on it, Hitchin comfortably defending against a Poole side whose final ball was often lacking.

The visitors had made virtually all the attacking running and in the 35th minute, Ian Rees’s thunderous volley flew over the bar after the hosts had only half-cleared.

On came Joe Quigley for Lewis Lindsay as Dolphins shifted to two up front and four minutes later, the equaliser arrived.

The diminutive Devlin rose high to help on a aerial ball in the box and Gillespie expertly directed across Horlock and into the left corner on the stretch.

Poole suddenly appeared immeasurably more comfortable and they might have inched in front before the break.

Quigley jinked away from a challenge 20 yards out and teed up fellow loanee Matt Butcher, who blazed high and wide.

There was still time for Quigley to have a fizzing effort blocked while Butcher again fired off-target, Killick’s men a greater threat in five minutes than they had been in the previous 40.

After the break, Hitchin were first to threaten when Donnelly’s corner was nodded on to the back post but McNamara lost his bearings and could only swipe at fresh air.

Minutes later, Dolphins broke through. Keith Emmerson’s free-kick from the left was only half-cleared and Luke Burbidge jinked to the by-line before pulling back for Will Spetch, who hammered in off the underside of the bar.

The lead lasted all of three minutes. More generous home defending saw Rees afforded plenty of room to collect a ball in the box, cut inside on his right foot and blast across Hutchings.

Killick responded by throwing Mason Walsh and Billy Lowes into the fray but Poole were given another scare when Rees – again unmarked – drove a couple of yards wide.

A mazy run from Burbidge afforded Quigley the chance to restore the lead but the youngster leant back and his side-footed effort rose over the bar.

Right-back Lewis Tallack did exceptionally well to prevent McNamara bursting clear on goal with 11 minutes left, while the Canaries man spurned a presentable chance when he shot straight at Hutchings.

Moments later and with perfect timing once again, Hutchings lunged in to clear as McNamara prepared to pull the trigger.

Referee Aaron Moody waved away appeals for a penalty when Burbidge went to ground under a challenge from Lewis Rolfe and soon after blew the final whistle.


DOLPHINS: Hutchings, Tallack, Spetch, Lindsay (Quigley, 37), Whisken, Pettefer, Burbidge, Devlin (Lowes, 63), Butcher, Gillespie, Emmerson (Walsh, 63).

UNUSED SUBS: Roberts, Thorpe (g/k).

CANARIES: Horlock, Rolfe, Smith, Ann, Webb, Kirkpatrick, McNamara, Donnelly, Martin, Barker, Rees (Lench, 77).

UNUSED SUBS: Corban, Pearson, Brooks, Johnson (g/k). 

REFEREE: Aaron Moody (Chandler’s Ford).