VERDICT: Poppies' issues exposed as they slip to first defeat
Kettering Town's winning streak was halted as Leiston snatched a 2-1 success at Latimer Park.
All good things have to come to an end eventually but the way it happened would have left boss Marcus Law and the Poppies supporters thoroughly frustrated.
Two dreadful lapses of concentration proved costly as the Poppies broke one of the golden rules - if you’re not at your best and a win isn’t coming, make sure you don’t lose.
The defeat does, perhaps, give everyone a chance for reflection.
Eighteen points from the first 21 is not something to be sniffed at. Overall, it’s been an excellent start to the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central campaign.
But their injuries and suspensions finally caught up with them as the lack of depth in the Poppies squad was fully exposed.
They could also point to the fact that the man who grabbed the late winner for the visitors probably shouldn’t have been on the pitch. More on that in a bit.
But what is clear is that Kettering need to get some bodies off the treatment table and some key men back from suspension - something that will start happening with Lindon Meikle now available after a three-match ban.
As previously observed, Kettering weren’t at their best. But it was visiting goalkeeper Marcus Garnham who was the busier of the two stoppers throughout the afternoon.
He twice denied Ben Milnes in the first six minutes. The midfielder saw a good, low strike pushed away before Garnham threw himself to his right to keep out another decent effort that was heading for the top corner.
But it was the visitors who broke the deadlock. The Poppies had to scramble a corner away for another but, from that, Dominic Docherty was left unmarked at the far post with his header adjudged to have crossed the line.
Kettering were frustrated by referee Scott Tallis when he pulled play back to award them a free-kick despite Michael Richens getting away from the initial challenge before bursting in the penalty area.
And the man in the middle took centre-stage just past the half-hour.
Rhys Hoenes went down under a challenge in the area and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.
To say it looked soft was an understatement and Leiston’s fury boiled over as Patrick Brothers pushed Hoenes to the ground, sparking a few seconds of handbags between the two sets of players.
But Brothers’ reaction deserved more than the yellow card he received, although Brett Solkhon rubbed salt into the wounds by sending Garnham the wrong way to level the game up.
The visiting goalkeeper was called into action again just before the break as he made another good save from Hoenes’ well-struck free-kick.
But Kettering really didn’t get going in the second half and their cause wasn’t helped by yet another injury with Solkhon being withdrawn with a nasty-looking ankle problem.
Richens did draw another save out of Garnham with a long-range effort and the goalkeeper really earned his money as he denied both Marcus Kelly and Ben Toseland at his near-post.
And his efforts were rewarded at the other end as Leiston produced a smash-and-grab with four minutes to go.
Byron Lawrence’s cross was out of Paul White’s reach and the ball, typically, fell to the aforementioned Brothers who made no mistake with a crisp finish from close-range.
Kettering tried to rally and they did create one big chance with Richens heading over from a good position.
Ultimately, the Poppies weren’t quite at it and, while they didn’t deserve to lose, their defensive errors were punished. They were the victims of their own downfall.
Now it is a question of how they respond but they could certainly do with some bodies back to ensure that response is a positive one...
Poppies: White; Stohrer, Berry, Rowe-Turner, Toseland; Richens, Milnes, Kelly, Solkhon (sub Rhiney, 61 mins); Davidson-Miller (sub Foy, 77 mins), Hoenes. Subs not used: Elsom, Towers, Lavery.
Leiston: Garnham; Hammond, Jefford, Bullard, Eagle; Aitkens; Docherty (sub Finch, 61 mins), Henderson, Lawrence, Brothers; Reed (sub Ramadan, 90 mins). Subs not used: Knights, Blake, Becknith.
Referee: Scott Tallis.
Goals: Docherty (14 mins, 0-1), Solkhon pen (31 mins, 1-1), Brothers (86 mins, 1-2).
Bookings: Henderson, Rhiney (both fouls), Brothers (unsporting behaviour).
Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Gary Stohrer - a disappointing day in which few stood out. But Gary Stohrer, playing at right-back was one of those couldn’t have done much more. He was strong in his challenges and did what he could to get attacks going. He’s been one of the standout players so far this season and that was proven again while others had a bad day.