VERDICT – Canavan’s cracker sets Poppies up for a third win in a row

Liam Canavan is buried under a pile of his Kettering Town team-mates after his stunning strike opened the scoring in the 3-1 win over Biggleswade Town. Pictures by Peter Short
Liam Canavan is buried under a pile of his Kettering Town team-mates after his stunning strike opened the scoring in the 3-1 win over Biggleswade Town. Pictures by Peter Short
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Liam Canavan’s wonder goal set up a third win in a row for Kettering Town as they saw off Biggleswade Town 3-1 at Latimer Park.

A fortnight ago, the obituary for the Poppies’ Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division season was written as a 3-1 defeat to Merthyr Town left them a massive 11 points off the play-off positions.

Biggleswade Town goalkeeper Ian Brown is beaten by Liam Canavan's incredible 35-yard volley

Biggleswade Town goalkeeper Ian Brown is beaten by Liam Canavan's incredible 35-yard volley

But you have to give credit where credit is due. Marcus Law’s team have responded in impressive fashion and this home success ensured the gap between themselves and the top five now remains at six points.

It remains a big ask especially with Kettering having played more games than most.

But they seem to be in a mean mood at the moment and confidence is clearly high within the camp. They can’t do much else apart from win and hope and, at the moment, that’s exactly what they are doing.

This was an afternoon when clinical finishing was the big difference between the two sides.

Rene Howe fires home the Poppies' second goal

Rene Howe fires home the Poppies' second goal

The Poppies took their opportunities in devastating fashion while Biggleswade, who were by no means poor, were unable to convert the chances that came their way, and there weren’t many of them as the Kettering defence produced a resolute display.

There were decent individual performances all over the pitch but Canavan shone.

His goal was out of this world, the strike that led to the third was almost as good and his general play was pretty much spotless as he grabbed hold of proceedings early on and rarely let it from his grasp from that point on.

Canavan’s form is pretty similar to Kettering’s season as a whole, so frustratingly hit and miss. But, in this sort of mood, there really can’t be many better players at the level.

The Poppies did have an early opportunity when Matthew Barnes-Homer delayed his shot from close-range with his final effort being blocked.

But the showstopping moment came on 11 minutes. The ball lobbed up for Canavan some 35 yards from goal and he unleashed the sort of volley footballers must dream about as it flew past Ian Brown and into the top corner.

A stunning strike to break the deadlock and there were few other chances at either end as the two teams cancelled each other out before Kettering doubled their lead three minutes before the break.

And yet again, it was another fine finish this time from the red hot Rene Howe, who has now scored in the last six matches.

James Brighton, who put in an incredible shift all afternoon, clipped a cross towards the far post. It took a nick off a visiting defender and Howe was there to volley home.

The Poppies continued to push after the break and Brown was forced to tip the ball over after Russell Short sliced Brighton’s cross towards his own goal.

But the visitors did come into it and were denied what looked a stonewall penalty when Rhys Hoenes appeared to be hauled down by Gary Mulligan. Instead, the Biggleswade frontman got nothing more than a yellow card as the over-fussy referee Martyn Fryer booked him for simulation.

A fine block from Liam Bateman denied Hoenes again soon after and that proved crucial as the Poppies wrapped things up on 64 minutes.

Canavan took aim again from 20 yards and his thunderous strike rattled the crossbar and hit Brown on the way back down. But, before anyone else could react, the returning Aaron O’Connor seized on the loose ball and found the bottom corner.

That ended the contest but there was still some frustration for the Poppies as they were denied a clean sheet in stoppage-time when, after Hoenes had shot wide and Craig Daniel had hit the bar, Robbie Parker finally found a way past Paul White from close-range.

That was the only blot on the copybook though.

Perhaps it was a bit hasty of your’s truly and others to write this Kettering team off a couple of weeks ago.

When they play well, they’re as good as anyone in the division and that remains the frustrating factor for everyone.

But, for the time being, they are winning games and waiting for mistakes from above.

If those mistakes come, then you can guarantee these Poppies will be waiting to pounce...

Poppies: White; Bateman, Mulligan, Langdon, Kelly (sub Hornby, 38 mins); Canavan, Hicks (sub Carvalho, 69 mins), Brighton, Howe; Barnes-Homer (sub A O’Connor, 52 mins), J Hall. Subs not used: J O’Connor, McAlindon.

Biggleswade: Brown; Karl, Short, Hoyte (sub Key, 80 mins), Parry; Daniel, Parker, C Hall, Vincent (sub Richards, 80 mins); Bignall (sub Lucan, 67 mins), Hoenes. Subs not used: Lewis, Woodward.

Referee: Martyn Fryer.

Goals: Canavan (11 mins, 1-0), Howe (42 mins, 2-0), A O’Connor (64 mins, 3-0), Parker (90 mins, 3-1).

Bookings: Short, Bateman, Hicks, C Hall, Hoyte (all fouls), Hoenes (diving).

Attendance: 511.