VERDICT: Play-offs are calling as Poppies march on
Kettering Town, at the very least, are cruising towards a play-off place in the Evo-Stik South League Premier after they picked up a routine 3-0 win over Frome Town at Latimer Park.
Mathematics will still tell you the job isn’t done just yet but the Poppies can start looking ahead as other results ensured they now hold a 16-point advantage over the chasing pack in the battle for a top-five finish.
And with the first job all-but done, the second one of trying to finish as high as possible to secure a home semi-final now begins and will surely be well on the way to being resolved by the time they have played fellow high-fliers Weymouth and King’s Lynn Town over the Easter weekend.
What lies ahead and even beyond the end of the season is a story yet to be written.
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For the time being though, the Poppies are in a nice groove and they completed an excellent week, which saw them score 11 goals, concede just one and pick up maximum points from the three matches.
This was possibly the most comfortable of the lot as well.
Kettering flew out of the blocks, got themselves 2-0 up inside 25 minutes and then sucked the life out of the game by getting the crucial third early in the second half.
That allowed manager Marcus Law to ring the changes and rest some legs, something we may well see more of as the season progresses and the situation allows.
All in all, it was a job well done and it never really looked in doubt from the start.
Mathew Stevens shot inches wide from a narrow angle inside the first minute and the striker then had another effort blocked as he looked to pick up the pieces after Kalern Thomas’ effort had been parried by visiting goalkeeper Kyle Philips.
But the breakthrough came on eight minutes when Aaron O’Connor released Lindon Meikle down the right. His first cross was blocked and came back to him but the second found Rhys Hoenes who made no mistake with a close-range finish.
Frome did have their moments with Gary Mulligan producing a good challenge to deny Joe Raynes in the area while Mitchell Page flicked a header over.
But, in general, it was one-way traffic and O’Connor scooped over from a Thomas cross before the lead was doubled on 25 minutes.
Hoenes, whose pace was far too much for the visitors, got away on the right of the area and was barged over by Marcus Mapstone.
A clear penalty and Brett Solkhon continued his impressive recent form from the spot as he found the top corner from 12 yards.
There was a nervous moment before the break when Paul White came out of his goal and his clearance only found Raynes. But his attempt to find an empty net from distance was blocked by the imposing figure of Orrin Pendley.
As ever, with the scoreline at 2-0, the next goal was crucial and Kettering ensured it was game over rather than game on five minutes into the second half.
A driving run from Ben Toseland down the left saw him jink into the area and he drove the ball across goal with O’Connor getting the final touch for his 29th in all competitions this season.
Job done. There was little to report after that as both sides made changes with the closest either team coming being when Chas Hemmings’ shot struck the post and went out for a goal-kick after he was teed up by Page.
Substitute Rene Howe went close to a fourth late on but another a goal wasn’t needed.
The Poppies are looking strong, they look to be in the mood and they look like they are re-discovering the form that saw them start the season in blistering fashion.
While the title may well look to be beyond them with Hereford still holding the cards, picking a winner from the play-offs is going to be a bit trickier.
In this sort of form, Kettering will have a big chance...
Poppies: White; Pendley, Mulligan, Solkhon (sub Milnes, 63 mins); Thomas, Richens, Meikle, Toseland; Hoenes (sub Carvalho, 66 mins), Stevens, O’Connor (sub Howe, 66 mins). Subs not used: Bateman, Stohrer.
Frome: Philips; Miller, Roberts, Mapstone (sub Knowles, 63 mins), Whithey; Miller, Hemmings; Davies, Raynes (sub Brace, 60 mins), Knight (sub Jefferies, 53 mins); Page. Subs not used: Bath, Griffiths.
Referee: Mark Hones.
Goals: Hoenes (8 mins, 1-0), Solkhon pen (25 mins, 2-0), O’Connor (50 mins, 3-0).
Bookings: Whithey, Page, Miller (all fouls).