All eyes now on the play-offs for Poppies assistant Austin

Mitch Austin says Kettering Town will be ready to 'do all we can to win' when they head to Slough Town for Wednesday's Evo-Stik South League Premier play-off semi-final.

Saturday, 28th April 2018, 9:55 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th April 2018, 10:06 pm
Kettering Town manager Marcus Law applauds the fans following Kettering Town's 6-2 victory over Farnborough. Pictures by Peter Short

The Poppies will travel to Arbour Park to take on the Rebels after the teams in the play-off places all won to remain in the same positions as they started on the final day of the regular campaign.

Kettering fired in five second-half goals to sign off with a 6-2 success over Farnborough at Latimer Park as Mathew Stevens hit a hat-trick, top scorer Aaron O’Connor scored twice and Brett Solkhon converted yet another penalty.

Mathew Stevens completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot

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Their shock midweek defeat to Tiverton Town had put a huge dent in the Poppies’ hopes of securing home advantage and, despite the big win yesterday (Saturday), they were unable to move further up the table.

It means another meeting with the Rebels, who came back from 2-0 down at half-time to beat Kettering 3-2 in the Southern League Division One Central play-off final nearly four years ago.

Having finished fourth with 97 points, scoring 122 goals in the process to be the league’s top scorers, the Poppies’ promotion hopes now rest on the post-season.

And assistant-manager Austin said: “Home advantage would have been brilliant.

Mathew Stevens takes the congratulations after his third goal

“If we had won the last two games we would have had it but after our performance in the week, it means we are away.

“There wasn’t one person in our dressing-room who wasn’t gutted after Tuesday. We don’t want that feeling to happen again.

“It’s a play-off and it will be a cup final and we will go there and see what we are made of.

“These play-offs - the semi-final and final if we are good enough to get there - mean the world to us.

Mathew Stevens completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot

“We will give it our all. We are going to put everything out there and do all we can to win.”

The Poppies were being held at 1-1 at half-time by Farnborough but took the game away from the visitors with three goals inside 10 minutes at the start of the second period.

And Austin admitted some words of encouragement were needed at the break.

“Some words were said,” he added.

Mathew Stevens takes the congratulations after his third goal

“It wasn’t a case of a rollicking or boots flying around. It was more a case of reminding the boys of what they have done up to this point.

“With the points we have accumulated, the goals we have scored, the performances we have put in, they have done us proud.

“We are in the play-offs and we did it with time to spare. It’s been outstanding and we said that to them.

“We just wanted them to go out in the second half and show their worth.

“The first half wasn’t great. The performances weren’t there from some players but they came out and showed what they are all about.

“The goal from Aaron, and it was no shock to see him score again because he has been outstanding, settled us down and Matty scored a second-half hat-trick.

“It gives us good confidence going into Wednesday.”

The day didn’t finish without some concern, however, as Solkhon appeared to suffer a groin injury as he took the penalty, which brought the Poppies level in the first half.

He was unable to continue and now looks to be doubtful for the play-off semi-final.

“We won’t know the full story until it settles down but it doesn’t look good,” Austin said.

“Knowing Brett, he will probably be back scoring a hat-trick on Wednesday!

“But we hope he will be back. He is a massive part of our squad, a massive part of our first XI.

“It was unfortunate but knowing Brett, he will be there leading the lads on Wednesday like normal.”