Jon Dunham – Is it time to be optimistic?

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

I am about to have a moment of weakness.

As a Northamptonshire boy, born and bred, I am all too aware that we, as a county, tend to always have our glasses half-empty rather than half-full.

But, in a rare moment of cheerfulness, I am about to ask a question that will send shockwaves through you all.

Is it time to be optimistic about what the rest of the football season may hold for Corby Town and Kettering Town?

If we use the recent evidence, the answer is yes.

On the eve of their huge FA Cup first-round clash with Dover Athletic at Steel Park, let’s start with the Steelmen.

The fact we are even talking about Corby having a first-round match in the FA Cup is an achievement in itself.

Southern League teams reaching this stage is a rarity and the truth is that opportunity knocks for the Steelmen tomorrow.

Many, including myself, would have been looking for a big away-day at a Football League club when the draw was made. But the next best thing would be a ‘winnable’ tie at home.

In the end, the latter was delivered and the confidence from within the Corby camp is justified, seeing as they knocked out a side from the level above at the last stage.

And there is no reason to suggest that the Steelmen can’t advance when Dover come to town.

The pitch problems at Steel Park, which are hopefully going to be resolved sooner rather than later, mean they are still on a run of seven wins in a row in their own back yard.

And it is a testament to the work of joint-managers Andrew ‘Stan’ Wilson and Tommy Wright that their team has such a big game to look forward to. Those two have suffered just three defeats in 11 matches since taking charge, not a bad start at all.

Even if the worst happens this weekend, Corby have enjoyed a fine run in the competition and their current form would suggest that their season won’t end when their FA Cup run is over.

There is plenty of life left in the Calor League Premier Division campaign and I am sure we will see the Steelmen continuing to move up the league rather than down it.

That brings us, quite nicely, to Kettering Town.

It feels like it has already been a long, old season for the Poppies (nothing new there). But the club finally seem to be coming out of the dark tunnel it has travelled down over the past couple of years.

The news that the winding-up petition was dismissed on Monday was expected but most welcome. The financial problems now look to be firmly under control, meaning Kettering can finally focus on the on-field matters.

And, again if we look at recent evidence, there is cause for cautious optimism.

The Poppies squad, as all squads at this level do, looks a lot different to that which started the Calor League Division One Central campaign.

There has been no panic from the board, they have backed Dean Thomas to get things right and he has responded by shifting some players out and bringing new ones in.

And it has resulted in a steady run for Thomas’ team, who can currently boast five wins from their last seven league matches ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Egham Town at Latimer Park.

They are in a mid-table position (when was the last time the Poppies were in such heights?) and, in a league which is most definitely one where any team can beat another on any given day, the chance to progress seems to be there.

Thomas knows he probably needs to strengthen in other areas of the squad and I am sure we will see plenty more comings and goings before the season is out.

Chairman Ritchie Jeune said this week that “building the foundations for future seasons” is his main aim. But, given the closeness of this particular division, it would be a massive surprise if the Poppies don’t have an eye or two on the play-off places.

So there you have it. Apologies if that was all a bit too optimistic for you but I have to get it out of my system while the chance is there.

And if both clubs fall foul of the football Gods tomorrow, please don’t blame me for having a crazy moment of cheerfulness.