VERDICT – Serious work to do as Poppies capitulate in FA Trophy

The Kettering Town players look dejected after one of Burscough's three goals at Latimer Park. Pictures by Alison Bagley
The Kettering Town players look dejected after one of Burscough's three goals at Latimer Park. Pictures by Alison Bagley
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There is a serious amount of work to be done when it comes to on-field matters at Kettering Town.

A controversial week ended in the worst possible way as a second-half capitulation at a soggy Latimer Park saw the Poppies beaten by lower-ranked opposition in a knockout competition for the second time this season.

After Bamber Bridge did it in the FA Cup, their Evo-Stik Northern League Division One North rivals Burscough followed suit in the second qualifying round of the FA Trophy.

They were, ultimately, worthy winners but it is fair to say that their convincing 3-0 victory looked unlikely at half-time.

After a seven-day period that had seen Marcus Law consider his position, only to receive the full backing of the board to remain in his position, it looked like the Poppies were going to respond in a positive manner.

Despite the tough conditions, Kettering were decent in the opening period as Burscough goalkeeper Calvin Hare kept them at bay as they attacked with plenty of endeavour.

Burscough celebrate after Paul Williams made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in their FA Trophy win at Kettering Town

Burscough celebrate after Paul Williams made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in their FA Trophy win at Kettering Town

That’s not to say Burscough were overrun, they weren’t. They had their own first-half chances and it all helped contribute to what was an absorbing cup tie.

But something changed at the break. From the start of the second half, the visitors upped their game while the Poppies stumbled.

And once Will Jones had brilliantly curled Burscough in front, the writing was on the wall. That was alarming to see.

Kettering never looked like getting back into. And what was more concerning was that there appeared no fight or desire to do so.

Kettering goalkeeper Craig Hill brings down Michael Monaghan for Burscough's penalty

Kettering goalkeeper Craig Hill brings down Michael Monaghan for Burscough's penalty

Questions will again be asked of Law. Rightly so, he picks the team and sets out the plan.

But the players shouldn’t be immune from criticism. There is a point at which the manager can do no more and when they fell behind, too many players went missing instead of taking responsibility.

It all added up to a performance to match the weather. Dreadful. Law and his newly-appointed assistant-manager - former Histon boss Brian Page - have their work cut out to find the right answers to more serious questions.

As previously observed, Kettering weren’t bad in the first half.

Paul Williams scores Burscough's second goal from the penalty spot

Paul Williams scores Burscough's second goal from the penalty spot

Hare produced two excellent saves to deny Liam Canavan with a couple of long-range efforts while, in between, John Connolly struck the post for the visitors after a neat move.

The Poppies went close to taking the lead in stunning fashion when goalkeeper Craig Hill’s long punt upfield had to be tipped over by Hare after a wicked first bounce off the greasy surface.

But it was Burscough who finished the half the better with Hill holding an effort from Connolly at the second attempt while Jones and Anthony Brown were both off target with a header and curling shot respectively.

Kettering almost got their noses in front when Hare’s clearance smacked off Dubi Ogbonna and headed towards goal but Brown got back to head off the line.

But that was pretty much where the positivity ended for the Poppies.

They didn’t get out of the blocks in the second half and Burscough were in no mood to let them off the hook.

Jones cut in from the left and sent a superb curling shot beyond Hill to break the deadlock.

And, from there, is was a procession as Kettering inexplicably fell apart.

Karl Noon should have made it 2-0 when he shot wide after being played in by the impressive Michael Monaghan.

But the game was up on 68 minutes when Hill hauled down Monaghan when he was pretty much going nowhere. A clear penalty and visiting captain Paul Williams beat Hill from 12 yards, despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to it.

The Poppies offered nothing in response with Hare being a happy spectator, unlike the 435 who braved the elements on the terraces.

Jones went close after he capitalised on a slip from Brett Solkhon but Burscough rounded it off with 12 minutes to go when Nick Ryan rose, unmarked, to powerfully head home number three.

A fair chunk of that 435 had already headed for the exits by the time the final whistle went. That said all that needed saying.

These are tough times for the Poppies. Confidence is low, the players look fragile and the manager seems to be walking on eggshells.

There seems to be a lack of spirit, which is possibly the most concerning thing.

Some big issues need to be addressed if Kettering are to make a push in the Southern League Premier Division.

For the time being at least, Law has the responsibility to ensure it happens...

Poppies: Hill; Langdon, Thorne (sub Sweeney, 57 mins), Solkhon, Carruthers; Grocott (sub Gooding, 70 mins), Canavan, Mulligan, Brighton; Ogbonna (sub Obeng, 65 mins), Sandy. Subs not used: Baker, McNiel.

Burscough: Hare; Quirke, Brown, Ryan, Devine; Williams, Smart; Monaghan (sub Smith, 83 mins), Connolly, Jones (sub Beesley, 88 mins); Noon (sub Conway, 80 mins).

Referee: Nigel Smith.

Goals: Jones (54 mins, 0-1), Williams pen (68 mins, 0-2), Ryan (78 mins, 0-3).

Bookings: Monaghan (diving), Thorne, Mulligan (both fouls).

Attendance: 435.