Baillie pleased to see young Poppies prove their critics wrong

Action from Kettering Town's 3-1 home win over Hitchin Town on Easter Monday. Pictures by Kit Mallin

Action from Kettering Town's 3-1 home win over Hitchin Town on Easter Monday. Pictures by Kit Mallin

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Thomas Baillie got just the reaction he was looking for as he finally claimed his first win as manager of Kettering Town on Easter Monday.

The Poppies put the official confirmation of their relegation from the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division on hold for at least one more game by beating Hitchin Town 3-1 at Steel Park.

A stunning overhead kick from Henry Eze, who was celebrating his 27th birthday, and further goals from skipper Nathan Hicks and Solomon Akinshade completed Kettering’s first win since January 2.

Baillie’s team can still finish level on points with Saturday’s visitors Chippenham Town but will need to win every game and hope their fellow strugglers lose all of theirs. Then there is the small matter of turning around some 40 goals in eight games.

It is, of course, an impossible task. But Baillie was delighted to see his players bounce back from a disappointing 3-1 defeat at Frome Town on Saturday.

And he believes the team talk that was delivered before the clash with Hitchin had the desired effect.

“There have been a few things written and said about our boys recently and we decided to let them hear it,” the Poppies boss said.

“It has ranged from people saying we should have been down a long time ago to accusing players of not trying.

“So we sat them down before the game and just told them that we didn’t to be in a position at full-time where anyone could say to us that we hadn’t done everything we could to get a result.

“I think a few of the lads were taken aback by some of the things that have been said about them.

“But it worked. They went out there and worked their socks off for 90 minutes and, in the end, they got what they deserved.

“People can say what they want but we had at least eight players in our team who are under the age of 21 and by the end, our front four were all 17 or 18 years old. They are young lads but they want to work hard and win.”

Baillie, meanwhile, admitted the decision to play Eze as an emergency striker was made on Saturday when it became clear that neither Jamie Griffiths or Aman Verma would be available for Monday’s clash.

“Knowing that they wouldn’t be there pretty much made up our minds,” the Kettering manager added.

“It is useful to have someone like Henry up there in this league because he is big, strong and can cause defenders a few problems.

“He did that and he has also scored an incredible overhead kick to give us the lead as well.

“They came back at us and we could have done better with their goal. But we have kept going and two more good goals won it for us. It was a good day for the lads and the fans who showed up.”

Don’t miss more Poppies news in tomorrow’s Northamptonshire Telegraph