VERDICT – Poppies’ good form goes on – but is it all too late?

Rene Howe's shot finds the net for what proved to be Kettering Town's winner in their 2-1 success over Basingstoke Town. Pictures by Peter Short
Rene Howe's shot finds the net for what proved to be Kettering Town's winner in their 2-1 success over Basingstoke Town. Pictures by Peter Short

Kettering Town maintained their good run of form as the club’s ‘Show Your Support Day’ was rewarded with a hard-fought 2-1 success over Basingstoke Town at Latimer Park.

It may not have attracted the huge crowd that some might have hoped for but for those who ventured out on a grim first Saturday afternoon of 2017 would have been fairly pleased with what they witnessed.

Goalmouth action at Latimer Park

Goalmouth action at Latimer Park

But for the regular Poppies fans, the frustration will more than likely still be there even though their team appear to be on the up.

The frustration, of course, being why this sort of form hasn’t been shown consistently so far this season.

The Poppies are still off the play-off pace in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division and they are playing yet another game of catch up.

But it’s hard to knock Marcus Law and his team on current form and, indeed, on this occasion they showed the sort of attributes you need if you are to succeed.

James Brighton challenges as Basingstoke player during Kettering's victory

James Brighton challenges as Basingstoke player during Kettering's victory

In the opening half, they played some decent stuff. They scored two goals and they were the better team in what was a very watchable 45 minutes.

But after they break they were forced to produce a battling display to see the game out and it needed a couple of excellent saves from goalkeeper Paul White to wrap up the points.

It all added up to another victory to keep them in with an outside chance of attacking the top five in the remaining three months or so of the season.

They started brightly and Liam Canavan sent a 30-yard drive just wide before Rene Howe’s header from a James Brighton cross was headed off the line by David Ray.

Dominic Langdon headed off target from the resulting corner but White was called into action for the first time when he made a smart save to deny Sam Deadfield who found some space in the area after a good ball in from Marcus Johnson-Schuster.

However, it was Kettering who continued to force the issue and Aaron O’Connor had an effort blocked by visiting stopped Alex Tokarczyk before the deadlock was broken on 27 minutes.

Langdon’s long throw caused havoc in the area and Howe’s shot was saved by Tokarczyk. The ball came out to Matthew Barnes-Homer who cracked an effort off the crossbar but Paul Malone reacted quickest and his header found its way in with the aid of a big touch from a defender.

O’Connor blasted wide soon after but the lead was doubled two minutes before the break when Brighton’s corner was cleared as far as O’Connor,

His attempted shot landed at the feet of the impressive Howe and while Basingstoke waited for an offside flag, the frontman confidently beat Tokarczyk with a crisp finish into the far corner.

Malone headed over early in the second half but Basingstoke gradually worked their way into things and White made another good save from Aaron Jarvis to keep them at bay.

But there wasn’t much he could do when substitute Aaron Redford raced away on the right and then fired across goal and into the far corner with 19 minutes to go.

That set up a tense finale but the visitors created just one more chance and that was when Nana Owusu skipped past Liam Bateman and pulled the ball back to Jarvis who couldn’t believe it as White showed fine reflexes to beat away his the striker’s close-range effort.

That was the match-winning moment and Kettering went close to extending their lead late on when substitute Jordan Wilson sent a volley off target shortly after coming on.

But the Poppies saw it out to rack up another win to make it 16 points gained from their last seven league matches.

That’s the sort of form most hoped would be produced on a consistent basis throughout the whole campaign to put them right in the hunt for promotion.

As it happens, Kettering are still eight points off the top five and if they are to launch a big push for the play-offs then they really can’t afford many more slip-ups and they’ll have to beat some decent teams along the way.

There’s no doubt the Poppies are in a good groove at the moment. Unfortunately, it may just be a bit too late...

Poppies: White; Bateman, Haran, Malone, Langdon; Canavan (sub Carvalho, 78 mins), Hicks, Brighton, Howe; Barnes-Homer (sub Solkhon, 73 mins), O’Connor (sub Wilson, 88 mins). Subs not used: Kelly, Snedker.

Basingstoke: Tokarczyk; Gater, Ray, Bennett; Johnson-Schuster (sub Greene, 84 mins), Partridge, Kennedy, Deadfield, Atkinson (sub Redford, 62 mins), Owusu; Jarvis. Subs not used: Hastings, Artwell, Shade.

Referee: Mathew Law.

Goals: Malone (27 mins, 1-0), Howe (43 mins, 2-0), Redford (71 mins, 2-1).

Bookings: Bennett (foul), Brighton (diving).

Attendance: 658.