VERDICT - 50 up for Howe as Poppies stay perfect

Basingstoke Town goalkeeper Colm McAdden is beaten by Rene Howe's superb chip as the striker put Kettering Town 2-0 up with his 50th goal for the club. Pictures by Peter Short
Basingstoke Town goalkeeper Colm McAdden is beaten by Rene Howe's superb chip as the striker put Kettering Town 2-0 up with his 50th goal for the club. Pictures by Peter Short

One week down and it has been a very good one if you happen to support Kettering Town.

The Poppies made it three wins from as many matches as they saw off Basingstoke Town 3-0 at Latimer Park to make it a perfect start to the new Evo-Stik South League season.

Brett Solkhon celebrates after opening the scoring for the Poppies

Brett Solkhon celebrates after opening the scoring for the Poppies

It proved to be a landmark day for striker Rene Howe as his sublime finish to make it 2-0 was his 50th goal for the club over two spells and it was a second strike that the Poppies will have been grateful of when it arrived with 17 minutes to go.

That’s not to say they were in any serious danger against a Basingstoke team who were condemned to a third successive defeat, but at 1-0 there were one or two uneasy moments that suggested this wasn’t as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.

But therein lies the big positive. Last season, this and Tuesday night’s last-gasp win over Redditch United were just the sort of matches where Kettering would have coughed up points on their own ground.

It is early days but it seems Marcus Law’s team have shaken off those issues in front of their own supporters.

There is a new-found resilience. In Michael Richens, the best player on the pitch, there is some overdue protection in front of the back four while Brett Solkhon and Gary Mulligan are combining well as a centre-half pairing.

And, at the other end, there are goals to be had. There’s pace in the team and, as Howe displayed, there is real quality on offer when it’s required.

In the end, Kettering found themselves in that dream scenario where they simply did what they needed to do to win this game. There will, of course, be bigger challenges down the line.

But, if we judge it on the first week, the signs have been more than encouraging.

There was little to write home about in a low-key first half with former Poppies striker Ben Wright firing well wide for the visitors with what proved to be one of their better chances,

Kettering did get their noses in front on 25 minutes when James Brighton’s pinpoint free-kick was headed home by Solkhon and the same combination almost did it again before the break with Solkhon unable to get on the end of that one.

Basingstoke did look dangerous after the break but a lack of punch in the final third ensured Paul White didn’t really have a serious save to make all afternoon.

For Kettering, it was all about trying to find that second goal.

Matt Stevens had a big shout for a penalty waved away after he appeared to be tripped by Shane Hollamby and Howe forced McAdden into a good stop when the ball broke nicely for him,

Stevens was presented with a golden opportunity to double the lead but mis-kicked in front of an open goal after Lindon Meikle had robbed Dan Bayliss and squared across goal.

But the Poppies kept going and it was Howe who settled any nerves with a moment of magic.

He nutmegged a defender and then brilliantly chipped McAdden to bring up his half-century of goals in superb fashion.

That gave Law the chance to make changes and one of those substitutes, Ben Baker, rounded off a very satisfying afternoon when he latched onto Ben Milnes’ pass and slotted under McAdden to complete the scoring.

Two home games in a week, two clean sheets and six points. One would hope that any curse at Latimer Park has been well and truly lifted.

Add them on to the opening-day success at Slough Town and Kettering have themselves a perfect start as they now look to the busy bank holiday weekend.

There is a good feeling developing, now they must ensure it continues...

Poppies: White; Berry, Mulligan, Solkhon, Brighton; Richens (sub Sundire, 89 mins), Meikle (sub Stohrer, 86 mins), Hoenes, Milnes; Stevens (sub Baker, 83 mins), Howe. Subs not used: Bateman, Hicks.

Basingstoke: McAdden; Schutor, Kennedy, Hollamby, Bayliss, Bennett; Smart (sub Davis, 74 mins), Collier, Atkinson; Jarvis, Wright. Subs not used: Hoult, McCann, Coater, Shaw.

Referee: Richard Eley.

Goals: Solkhon (25 mins, 1-0), Howe (77 mins, 2-0), Baker (90 mins, 3-0).

Bookings: Milnes (re-entering field of play without permission), Richens, Schutor (both fouls), Atkinson (diving).

Attendance: 557.