Six months ago next week these two teams battled it out at Tatnam for a place in the play-off final. On the evidence tonight both sides will once again be there or thereabouts in another six months time. This was an excellent football match played by two very committed teams with no lack of talent on either side. The draw was a fair result - neither side deserved to lose this game.
Poole came into the game on the back of the 4-0 drubbing at North Leigh on Saturday and in some ways the performance (the reaction!) was almost more important than the result. In that respect manager Tom Killick should be pleased with his side's determination and endeavour - they really couldn't be faulted for their efforts.
The first half flew past in a blur of action as both sides went at it from the start. It was a like a cup tie with both sides defending well and countering at pace. There were some very strong challenges (some justified, others not) and with the referee at a complete loss to manage the game, it only encouraged the players to get stuck in. So many challenges went unpunished that it almost became a free for all and at times even the body language of the referee suggested that he really was unable to keep up with everything going on around him. Enough said.
The Dolphins did have the ball in the net after five minutes when a Walker header was turned in after Kelly had floated a freekick into the box. However, the Poole skipper was deemed offside and it remained goalless. On 16 minutes Keith Emmerson (great to have him back and impressive in midfield) delivered a great cross into the box and Will Spetch produced a firm header which unfortunately was aimed squarely into the keeper's arms.
Preston was on fire again and he produced a neat twist in the box but shot tamely wide and Emmerson himself made enough space to fire in a shot which flew just wide. Minutes later Emmerson produced a brilliant ball out wide to Preston. He knocked the ball first time in towards Spetch who was in the box but the young defender was literally floored from a challenge from behind. A stonewall penalty not given and Spetch was booked for simulation................
Just before the half hour Poole finally took the lead. More magic from Preston on the left and his cross wasn't dealt with and Sam Wilson knocked the ball in at the far post. Wilson's workrate throughout the evening was impressive and with his third goal in a week his confidence is obviously growing. With Dan Cann still recovering, Wilson is emerging as the lead striker - he does appear to have a lot of potential.
Despite the Poole chances it would be wrong to think that it was all one way traffic. Far from it, Hungerford are a strong, well organised side and although they didn't really fashion any clear cut chances in the first half, they always looked quick and dangerous on the break. Before the break they enjoyed a bit of pressure of their own although from one break Preston won the ball back and ran fully sixty yards before his shot came to nothing.
A breathless first half of exciting football.
Half time: 1-0
If Poole deserved their half time lead then Hungerford deserved the share of the spoils at the end as they came out firing in the second half and shaded the final period. Poole were pushed back for parts of the second half but defended well and the visitors were limited in their goal chances.
On 56 minutes a freekick right on the edge of the box saw Hutchings make a good save low down before scrabbling to hold on at the second attempt. Will spetch who had picked up a knock in the first half eventually limped out as Lamin Dibba replaced him at left back.
Steve Brown also came on for Sam Wilson as Poole continued to look for the killer second goal. Whilst Kelly, Preston and Emmerson all continued to probe for an opening it was Hungerford who looked the more dangerous as the half wore on and they got their equaliser as late as the 87 th minute.
A shot from the left was hammered in and when Hutchings made the save the ball popped up nicely for Draycott to head into an empty net.
Hungerford will be delighted with a draw at Tatnam and the Dolphins will be pleased with their display and point after Saturday's mauling. The real winner on the night was non league football. A great advert.