VERDICT – Glaring errors mean Poppies can have few complaints

Marcus Law and coach Steve Kinniburgh watch on during the Poppies' 2-2 draw with Banbury United. Pictures by Peter Short
Marcus Law and coach Steve Kinniburgh watch on during the Poppies' 2-2 draw with Banbury United. Pictures by Peter Short
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Kettering Town finally hit the target at Latimer Park this season but another home game ultimately ended in yet more frustration.

The Poppies’ Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division is struggling to click into gear, particularly in front of their expectant home supporters.

Nathan Hicks battles for possession with a Banbury opponent

Nathan Hicks battles for possession with a Banbury opponent

And as long a glaring individual errors continue to torment them, it’s unlikely to change in a hurry.

The signs are there. Kettering’s attacking play was, in general, pretty good as they dominated possession and territory and put Banbury United under pressure for long spells.

But this Poppies team has an unwanted habit of shooting themselves in the foot at the moment.

A rash challenge from James Brighton gifted the Puritans their opening goal from the penalty spot and a terrible mistake by goalkeeper Craig Hill allowed the visitors to go in leading at the break when it had been the Poppies who had shown more attacking intent.

Brett Solkhon heads over from a good position during Kettering's draw with Banbury

Brett Solkhon heads over from a good position during Kettering's draw with Banbury

In the end, especially considering Banbury hit the woodwork no fewer than three times, Kettering could have few complaints with the 2-2 draw they ended up with.

But without those mistakes, things probably would have been so much different.

If a promotion challenge is to be launched by Marcus Law’s team then those errors have to be eradicated because their opponents simply aren’t giving them an inch.

They almost had a wake-up call inside the first two minutes when Banbury’s lively new arrival George Jeacock curled an effort off the inside of the upright with Hill then saving from Mark Janes’ header on the rebound.

But Kettering soon got into their stride and Ricky Johnson stopped a Rene Howe header on the line before Brett Solkhon nodded over when he should have done a lot better at the far post.

Jack Harding made a good near-post save to deny Wilson Carvalho but it was Banbury who opened the scoring when Brighton slid in to Jeacock, who wasn’t exactly in a threatening position on the right of the area and Johnson stepped up to hammer the ball home from the penalty spot.

But the Poppies responded well and Rene Howe brought them level when a fortunate ricochet allowed him to turn his defender and fire past Harding.

At 1-1, the Poppies looked well set but, in first-half stoppage-time, Hill inexplicably kicked the ball when he had spilled a routine save and it landed straight at the feet of Jeacock who made no mistake with the final finish.

To their credit, Kettering came out firing in the second half and Harding turned Nathan Hicks’ shot over the bar before the second equaliser arrived.

The old adage of ‘if you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t win the lottery’ could be applied on this occasion as defender James Haran took aim from fully 40 yards and his fine strike skipped off the drenched surface and flew into the bottom corner.

With their tails up, Law threw on Aaron O’Connor and then Liam Canavan, who ended up having an eventful 16 minutes on the pitch.

He was out of luck when a fine looping header cannoned back off the crossbar before Banbury went straight up the other end and hit the post with Darius Browne being the unlucky one on that occasion.

And then, in a dramatic finale, both sides almost snatched the points.

Canavan was dismissed after picking up two bookings in the space of six minutes and, from the resulting free-kick, Johnson’s header was ruled out for offside.

Banbury struck the post again, this time from Mark Bell’s long-range effort and Kettering so nearly made them pay when Brighton burst into the area before being denied by a fine save from Harding.

On the entertaining evidence presented, the final outcome was probably about right.

But for Kettering, those glaring individual errors proved to be far too costly...

Poppies: Hill; Bateman, Haran, Mulligan, Brighton; Carvalho, Hicks (sub Canavan, 74 mins), Solkhon, Mohamed (sub Langdon, 90 mins); Weir-Daley (sub O’Connor, 63 mins), Howe. Subs not used: Baker, Walker.

Banbury: Harding; Blackstock, Fawke, Johnson, Gavin, White; Self, Nash, Janes (sub Browne, 74 mins); Barcelos (sub Bell, 60 mins), Jeacock (sub Huwards, 85 mins). Subs not used: Martin, Davis.

Referee: Matthew Law.

Goals: Johnson pen (24 mins, 0-1), Howe (38 mins, 1-1), Jeacock (45 mins, 1-2), Haran (61 mins, 2-2).

Bookings: Canavan, Self (both fouls), Harding (time-wasting).

Sending-off: Canavan (second bookable offence).

Attendance: 480.