Poppies beaten in Championship Match at Merthyr

Kettering Town joint-managers Scott Machin and Thomas Baillie
Kettering Town joint-managers Scott Machin and Thomas Baillie
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Kettering Town’s season ended in defeat as they were beaten 1-0 at Merthyr Town in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Championship Match.

The Poppies made the trip to Wales for the annual clash between the Division One Central and South & West title winners.

However, a second-half goal from Jarrad Wright proved decisive as the Martyrs picked up the overall title.

The Poppies were forced into changes with captain Steve Kinniburgh unavailable for the clash due to family commitments.

James Clifton and Josh Moreman both returned to the starting line-up while young winger Reubus Richard-Noel was also included. Under-21 players Lewis Carpenter and Branon Dujic, meanwhile, were named on the bench.

Merthyr started the better and they created the first chance when Richard Knight was forced into a fine save to deny Matthew Harris.

Kayne McLaggon headed off target for the hosts while Elliot Sandy had the ball in the net for the Poppies, only for his effort to be ruled out with David Kolodynski being flagged offside in the build-up.

But Merthyr went close to opening the scoring just past the half-hour when Ian Traylor saw his shot saved by Knight and then headed the rebound against the post.

Kettering finished the half well, however, and Sandy headed a James Jepson corner over from close range before they also hit the woodwork just before the break when Brett Solkhon headed the ball down for Andy Hall, whose thunderous strike hit the post.

Clifton headed wide from an Andy Gooding free-kick early in the second half.

But it was the hosts who broke the deadlock on 54 minutes as Richard Evans sent in a corner and it was headed home by Jarrad Wright.

Corey Jenkins saw an effort go just wide while, at the other end, Kolodynski forced home goalkeeper Tom Bradley into a decent saved after the striker was played in by Sandy.

Knight denied Traylor with a good stop but the Poppies piled the pressure on late in the game and were only denied an equaliser by the crossbar as Solkhon headed onto the woodwork from Gooding’s corner.

But they were unable to find the goal they needed as the season ended on a losing note.

However, the match ultimately meant little as the Poppies’ campaign delivered what was needed and expected as they can now look forward to Premier Division football next season.

Merthyr: Bradley, Summerfield, Green, M Harris, Davies, Wright, Evans, Leek, Traylor, McLaggon (sub J Harris, 82 mins), Jenkins (sub Morgan, 74 mins), Subs: Williams, Prosser.

Poppies: Knight, Clifton, Moreman, Gooding, Solkhon, Mulligan, Richard-Noel (sub Dujic, 83 mins), Jepson, Kolodynski (sub Carpenter, 70 mins), Sandy, Hall. Subs: Hull, Lee, McAlindon.

Goal: Wright (54 mins, 1-0).

Booking: Clifton (foul).