Since the Poppies agreed to ground share with Burton Park on a five year deal, they have made a number of improvements to to the stadium. The original seating area, adorned with the name of the landlord, has been joined by two further seating areas on the same side of the pitch as well as a covered standing area behind one of the goals. The rest of the stadium is boredered by hard standing, with the dug outs opposite the main stands. This side of the ground appears to be currently out of bounds to supporters with stewards posted on the corners of both ends of the ground. Behind the dugouts there is also a temporary scaffolding structure which, prsumably, is used by the club for filming games.
There is ample parking at the ground which, for a club that averages 600 even in the Southern League Central, is a must. I parked on a grass verge very close to the entrance so that I could get out easily, but there appeared to be plenty of room closer to the turnstiles. Having said that, the attendance of 401 was actually The Poppies' lowest of the season so far. Not that surprising on what was an absolutely bitter evening against opponents that were languishing near the foot of the table.
Having made the journey from Slough, via home, and over to the ground myself, I was not that surprised when I arrived to hear that the game was delayed due to Beaconsfield being stuck in traffic. This was going to be a late night. Kettering filled in the time by completing an extra long warm-up session, a luxury that Beaconsfield would have to forego.
Beaconsfield, despite being at the wrong end of the table and having a disastrous start to the season, have started to pick up in recent weeks including a 1-0 win over high-flying Hanwell Town.
When the game finally got under way it was obvious from the start which of the teams were the more accomplished on the ball. However, as many teams have found to their cost, having plenty of possession and stroking the ball around in midfield doesn't always win games. The match was never going to be a classic. Even with only a few minutes played your could hear the frost under the studs of the players when they were close to the edge of the pitch. There was an icy wind blowing up the ground and the pitch was not conducive to a passing game (even though it was in fairly good nick all things considered).
Kettering did their best to get a fluent passing game going but a combination of the elements, some stray passes and some resolute defending prevented them from getting a meaningful strike on goal.
The deadlock was eventually broken after 29 minutes when Ogbonna played in Hall to fire past the advancing goalkeeper. Probably no more than Kettering deserved on the balanced of play. However, the goal sparked some life from the away side who came close to equalising just a few minutes later. A hurried clearance fell to Jones 40 yards out who immediately struck a looping drive only to see the Poppies keeper recover his ground and parry the ball away. Jones was to get revenge for this save just two minutes before half-time when he hit an unstoppable drive from out side the box that flew into the top corner of the net.
So, at half-time the teams were level. Kettering had been the better team but SYCOB had shown a dogged determination that belied their league position.
Unfortunately for the away side all of their hard work was undone just 10 seconds into the second period. Kettering immediately pushed forward down their right. The ball was played to Ogbonna who beat the last defender and hit a shot across the keeper and into the far corner. A devastating blow to Beaconsfield so early in the half.
To their credit the Rams did not give up the ghost but, with conditions deteriorating by the minute, they could not find the telling pass. The game became scrappy and despite an inordinate amount of injury time, remained at 2-1 to the Poppies.
Brett Solkhon in the Kettering defence had been showing his class throughout the game but in the second half particularly he was an absolute rock at the back. Reading the game, marshalling the defence and generally looking like the best player on the pitch. I don't normally pick out individuals for praise, preferring to leave this to the locals who see players week in, week out, but in this case Solkhon's defensive display was the highlight of the game for me and deserves a mention.
Also deserving a mention are the Kettering crowd. They undoubtedly back their team in great numbers. However, for a team that is clearly going to attain promotion this season, they were very quick to criticise their team as well. This may not have been the best performance of the season but it was a hard-earned and vital three points that took them back to the top of the table. The club has a distinct feel of a club that is going places. I would be happy to not only back them for promotion this season but also to put a few quid on them for back-to-back success in the Premier League next year. A bold statement that may come back to haunt me, but I really did get the feeling that this club is going places. So, people of Kettering. You are fantastic supporters of your club, don't get on their backs for a bad performance. You have a club to be proud of after a few years of struggle and hardship. Enjoy it.
Write up from the Kettering Town website - http://www.ketteringtownfc.co.uk/story.php?story_id=1814
Kettering Town - @ktfcofficial
Beaconsfield SYCOB - @becky_sycob_fc