Former Poppies play key roles for Great Britain

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Two former Kettering Town men have helped Great Britain reach the final of the football competition at the World University Games in Russia.

Ex-Poppies defender Luke Graham (pictured in background celebrating), who now plays for Hereford United and studies at Staffordshire University, played the full game as Great Britain beat hosts Russia 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in front of around 10,000 people in Kazan.

The British team’s head coach is James Ellis, who also had a spell at Kettering as part of Marcus Law’s backroom staff back in the 2010-11 campaign.

Russia’s team included players with Champions League experience as well as full international Vladimir Dyadun.

But he was well marshalled by Graham and Kieran Murphy, although Britain were down to 10 men before half-time when James Aldred was sent off.

Russia took the lead on 68 minutes but Britain fought back with Micky Rae grabbing the equaliser before Russia were also reduced to 10 men.

It eventually came down to penalties and Nicky Platt, former Northampton Town midfielder Alex Dyer, Jack Winter, Simon Richman and Craig Moses all scored to seal Britain’s success.

They will now play France in the final on Tuesday and Ellis said: “Our aim was to be in the game after an hour.

“The sending off threw that, and at half time we went 4-4-1 and I told the lads to protect our half of the pitch and play on the counter-attack.

“We’d prepared for Russia going ahead, so changed it to a 4-3-2. I think belief in what we were doing got them through.

“The pressure’s off now really. We set the target of a medal, and I’d rather play France than Japan, as this is their first time in the final, our second, and we have a bit of experience in the side. So we’re going out there to win the game and the gold.”