REVIEW – Poppies didn’t deliver on their own expectations

Winning the NFA Hillier Senior Cup was a nice consolation prize after a season that failed to deliver for Kettering Town. Pictures by Peter Short
Winning the NFA Hillier Senior Cup was a nice consolation prize after a season that failed to deliver for Kettering Town. Pictures by Peter Short

It was the season that promised so much but simply didn’t deliver.

For Kettering Town, their board, manager Marcus Law and most importantly, the fans, the buzzword was quite simply ‘frustration’.

Rene Howe and Aaron O'Connor ensured scoring goals was never a problem

Rene Howe and Aaron O'Connor ensured scoring goals was never a problem

Having gone so close to a play-off place in their first season back at Step Three last time out, hopes were high for this campaign in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division.

Chairman Ritchie Jeune admitted before the season started that promotion was the aim but the truth is, it was never really on the cards.

So what was to blame? A large portion of the fanbase laid it at Law’s door while the manager bemoaned individual errors at crucial times and an inability to get their home form going before it was too late.

You could make a case for everyone’s argument.

Indeed, one glance at the home form suggests that if the Poppies had got to grips with teams on their own pitch before finally gaining a league victory at Latimer Park in late October then a play-off charge may have materialised.

There’s no doubt the players had it in them. Huge wins against the likes of St Ives Town, St Neots Town and Cirencester Town showed what they were capable of.

But their inconsistency was infuriating while the manager struggled to find a solution on home soil and they rarely threatened a win over the teams at the top end.

The season, I felt, was done after a 3-1 home loss to Merthyr Town in January. I know some weren’t happy with that assessment but ultimately that was the day any hope really went.

That’s not to say there weren’t good points. The FA Cup run was decent, in Rene Howe and Aaron O’Connor they finished the season with a lethal frontline while winning the NFA Hillier Cup was a nice consolation prize.

But make no mistake, next season will be a big one, particularly for Law as he is again given the task of launching a promotion charge. You feel there will be little room for error.

With Jeune taking a back seat and David Mahoney now taking on the chairman’s role, there is change on the way.

After two seasons at this level, now is the time to push.

Jon Dunham’s unofficial player of the season – Rene Howe.

On September 24 last year, Rene Howe was sent off when Kettering were leading against Dunstable, they went on to lose 3-1. Howe came in for some stick for the incident but once he returned, he became a true leader as the Poppies tried to reignite their season.

That, ultimately, wasn’t to be but Howe’s performances – especially in a deeper role – were consistent and key to their efforts. He scored 15 goals, he created even more. With Aaron O’Connor up there as well, scoring goals was never really a problem.

Keeping them could be the best business the Poppies do this summer.