There were chaotic scenes at Nene Park ahead of Kettering Town’s 3-0 home defeat to Ryman League Premier Division side Concord Rangers in the first qualifying round of the FA Carlsberg Trophy today.
Rumours surfaced ahead of the game that manager John Beck had left the club after another dreadful week that saw his assistant Dean Greygoose depart as well as players Ben Gerring and Ed Palmer.
But Beck arrived at the ground as normal to take charge of the team.
However, after a series of meetings between him and officials at the club, he was eventually escorted from the stadium with chief scout Alan Doyle taking charge of the side for the tie.
The Poppies players were watching on pretty bemused by the whole situation.
And before the game, a Kettering Town spokesman said: “John Beck will not be taking the game today. Alan Doyle is in charge. More details will be released on John Beck’s status.
“John Beck will meet the chairman (Imraan Ladak) either today or in the next couple of days.”
Doyle’s first team selection didn’t include striker Warren Byerley while Ben Farrell, a former Cambridge United player, was named on the bench and Sean Bonnett-Johnson, who was with the club earlier in the season, also returned.
Given the circumstances, the Poppies started brightly enough with Pacome Gele shooting straight at visiting goalkeeper Michael Jordan.
But it was Concord who took the lead on 20 minutes when Harry Elmes was left unmarked and he headed Reece Harris’ free-kick into the far corner.
That changed the game with the visitors looking more confident and they should have been 2-0 up soon after.
Laurie Walker saved Harris’ free-kick at his near post and then reacted brilliantly to block Tony Stokes’ follow-up.
And then, from the resulting corner, John Eastleford missed his kick with the goal at his mercy after it had been flicked on.
Walker had to get down well to save Jerome Walker’s low drive before the break but Concord continued their dominance and grabbed their second early in the second half.
Laurie Walker saved well from Jerome Walker but from the corner that followed, it was played short and the cross to the far post was powerfully headed home by Steve King.
The Poppies tried to respond with Michael King’s shot being saved by Jordan before Gele saw his effort from a narrow angle hacked off the line by Danny Glozier.
But from there, the game turned scrappy with Concord comfortably holding onto their lead and Walker was forced to make a fine stop from Elmes before substitute Jason Hallett was allowed to skip into the area and around the goalkeeper before firing home the third.
So, another defeat for the Poppies but, as ever, there are bigger battles to be won.
The crisis is deepening with the apparent departure of Beck being the latest blow.
It is only a matter of time before the biggest decision of all will have to be made.
Poppies (4-4-2): L Walker; Burns, Ifil, Radford, Lamplough (sub Farrell, h-t); Mayo, Hervel, M King, Bonnett-Johnson; Muzvimbiri, Gele. Subs not used: Gathercole.
Concord Rangers (4-2-3-1): Jordan; Coyne, Eastleford, S King, Glozier; Cowley, White (sub Hallett, 58 mins); J Walker (sub Cleaver, 75 mins), Stokes, Harris (sub Osifuwa, 66 mins); Elmes. Subs not used: Knott, Clare.
Referee: Marc Wilson.
Goals: Elmes (20 mins, 0-1), S King (47 mins, 0-2), Hallett (82 mins, 0-3).
Bookings: M King (unsporting behaviour), Burns (dissent), Ifil (foul).