Jon Dunham – Powerful Poppies came of age

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

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There can’t have been many games at Calor League Division One Central level in the past that got the build-up the county derby between Daventry Town and Kettering Town got.

But the match and what it meant deserved the full treatment, regardless of what level of football we are talking about.

Two Northamptonshire sides both pushing for promotion, meeting on a Thursday night when no-one else was playing, one of them defending a proud unbeaten home league record, the other looking to extend their own unbeaten run to 18 league matches.

It was a big game and while it may not have been the spectacle some had hoped for, the majority of those who were at Communications Park went home happy.

Well over 300 Kettering fans made the short trip across the A45 to find out just how good their team was. They were, after all, up against the most consistent team in the league so far.

And Dean Thomas’ team delivered with a powerful display that Daventry simply had no answer to.

So what does it mean for the run-in?

Well, in truth the ball is still very much in Daventry’s court. They are seven points ahead of the Poppies from the same number of games and are six points off leaders Rugby Town with five matches in hand.

Thomas says it’s their title to lose, it’s still hard to argue with that. It will, however, be interesting to see how the league table looks when the two teams meet again at Latimer Park on Easter Monday, the penultimate game of the season.

For Kettering, it was something of a coming-of-age performance.

After losing six of their first 10 league matches, the Poppies haven’t been beaten since.

Thomas was given the chance to change his squad around, he has had the backing of chairman Ritchie Jeune and the club’s fans and so far he has delivered.

With the amount of games they have left, a play-off place is looking likely.

But, for the first time, many fans left Communications Park last night wondering if the title is still a possibility. Mathematically of course, it is. But the Poppies will have to keep winning and hope for favours elsewhere.

Truth be told, and let’s be realistic, if I had given any Poppies fan a play-off place after those first 10 games then they would have snapped my hand off.

But with a big run of form, a club record for league matches no less, comes further expectation.

However, the current crop look like they can handle that and, as time passes, they just seem to be getting stronger.

It simply may be the case that they have left a tilt at the title just a bit too late but if they keep on performing like they did last night and, more importantly, keep winning then anything is possible.

Either way, Thomas and his players deserve an enormous amount of credit for the way they have turned things around.

There is still plenty of time left in this particular campaign and you now sense that everyone associated with the club is eyeing up a bit of glory.

After such a pleasant evening in the company of some good people at Daventry last night, I hope they both go up. Now there would be reason for Northamptonshire to be proud.