By Christopher Sweetman
Click here for Castle Manager, Robin Van der Laan's, reaction to todays draw.
NEWCASTLE Town earned a much-needed point as they played out a thrilling 0-0 draw with Kidsgrove Athletic at the Autonet Insurance Stadium.
Newcastle came into the Staffordshire derby looking to end a run of six games without a win, but were made to dig deep by a determined Kidsgrove side.
The first half was one of few clear chances, with both sides enjoying periods of dominance but unable to fashion a clear shot.
However, the second half saw more determination from both sides to score, as Kidsgrove twice had efforts cleared off the goal line.
While for the visitors, Callum Lovatt, Tommy van der Laan and James Askey all had great chances to secure to the three points, but in the end a lack of quality finishing meant both sides had to settle for the draw.
The game had a slightly unusual quirk to team selection as both sides named separate Kyle Stubbs in the number 3 shirt.
Newcastle began the game quickly, as Ethan Vale intercepted a Kidsgrove clearance, before feeding Nathan Morley whose shot was deflected behind for a corner.
That sparked a series of corners and throws for the visitors, but they could not take advantage and Kidsgrove eventually cleared.
That proved something of a theme in the first half, as Newcastle won several dangerous set pieces, but found them too easily cleared by Kidsgrove.
Newcastle’s first opportunity came as Oliver Ritchie broke down the right, before firing an excellent cross into the box.
Newcastle wanted a penalty as Jake Lovatt went down trying to reach the cross, but the referee waved away what would have been a soft foul.
Minutes later, Joe Slinn found Morley from a goal kick, who then slipped the ball to Ritchie, whose angled shot just flashed wide of the net.
At this point, Newcastle were finding all sorts of space behind the Kidsgrove defence, although the home side were scrambling well.
Jake Lovatt twice thought he had broken through, only for the home side to get back and deny him – the first saw his shot blocked, while the second saw him dispossessed by an excellent tackle by Kieran Knapper.
Morley then fired straight at Kidsgrove keeper Sam Booth, before the home team began to dominate the half.
First Josh Thorpe fired a shot from range that was deflected wide, and from the resultant corner Jake Chadwick fired over the bar.
Moments later a clever header by Aaron Bott allowed Kidsgrove’s Kyle Stubbs to hammer in a shot that ultimately went wide.
Then Knapper did well to get off a shot as he slipped, which caused Slinn – under pressure from Bott – some difficulties, before he eventually gathered the ball.
However, Newcastle did finish the half strongly, with Vale’s shot only palmed away by Booth, forcing his defenders to shovel the ball behind.
Newcastle couldn’t make anything of the corner, while Morley and Jake Lovatt both had shots blocked as the half came to an end.
The second half began with Kidsgrove putting Newcastle under immense pressure, although it was the visitors who had the first real chance.
Excellent interplay between Newcastle’s Kyle Stubbs, Oliver Ritchie and Morley led to Callum Lovatt being found in space on the edge of the box, but his shot went clear over the net.
Minutes later it was the home side’s turn to waste a great opportunity as Knapper broke and fired a perfect cross into the box, only for everyone to miss it and Newcastle could clear off their line.
Kidsgrove got forward again moments later, and Newcastle were again saved by a home mistake, as Bott’s scuffed shot trickled wide of the post.
Newcastle then had their best chance of the game as Stubbs’ long throw fell to James Askey, whose shot looked destined for the top corner, but for an excellent save by Booth.
Kidsgrove should then have taken the lead, after a clever free kick pulled Slinn out of position, but Kingsley Adu-Gyamfi’s shot had no power behind it and was cleared off the line.
Kidsgrove the wasted another golden chance as a corner found a clump of three players at the back post, who somehow found a way to push the ball wide.
Knapper and Oliver Jepson then put more decent home chances over the bar, before Newcastle began to come back into the game.
First, a great Newcastle move saw Booth forced to claim Mikey Conlon’s cross, before Newcastle won a free kick wide of the box late on.
The free kick caused a scramble from both teams in the Kidsgrove area, which ended with Tommy van der Laan firing wide from close range.
However, Newcastle were adamant that they should have been awarded a penalty for a handball in the build up to the shot, but the referee was unmoved.
There was still time from one last Kidsgrove chance, as a great ball to Will Saxon saw him feed Knapper, who somehow fired his shot away from goal.
That was the last real chance of the game, which meant both sides had to settle for a point.
It is a result Newcastle will ultimately be satisfied with on the day, but will be disappointed that it is now seven games since their last win...