COMMENT '“ Poppies facing a key test but it's not what was expected
It's hard to fathom but Kettering Town are facing a huge test for all the wrong reasons when they head to St Ives Town on Saturday.
There’s no escaping it, before the season started the message was clear at Latimer Park from both the boardroom and the dugout - promotion was (and most probably is) the target.
But all of a sudden, the inconsistent Poppies find themselves in a situation where they may have to start looking down before they start looking up again.
This past week has really summed things up quite nicely.
Marcus Law rang the changes to get injured players back on the pitch and give minutes to those who needed them when Kettering took on Market Drayton Town in the FA Trophy last weekend.
The end result was a 5-1 victory with Spencer Weir-Daley producing an impressive individual display with a four-goal haul.
Fast forward 72 hours and it was back to the same old.
A return to league action and a return to losing ways. Merthyr Town, clearly a club with their own promotion ambitions, successfully defended their unbeaten home record in the league this season as they beat the Poppies 2-0.
And, for the array of attacking talent they appear to have in their squad, the reports suggest that Kettering failed to register a single attempt on target.
That was the Poppies’ seventh defeat in the league this season - a figure that if you go by previous seasons suggests any ideas about automatic promotion are dead and buried.
The play-offs will be their only shot but, with 29 games remaining (it sounds a lot) they already have an 11-point gap to make up on the top five.
Even by their own standards of having impressive second halves of the season in recent years, that’s a tough ask.
And perhaps their biggest concern right now should be towards the other end of the table.
The Poppies are 14th with 20 points, just three clear of fourth-from-bottom St Neots Town in what is proving to be a tight bottom half of the table.
And on Saturday they head to St Ives, who will no doubt be seeking a win to ease their own fears at the wrong end.
One would hope that Marcus Law and his players will be capable of pulling out a result when they need it. But defeat will leave them in a delicate situation to say the least.
Chairman Ritchie Jeune has commented on social media since the defeat at Merthyr and suggested the board remain behind Law.
The fans, however, are more than twitchy at the present time.
They are an expectant bunch are those who follow Kettering. But this season they had every right to be that way. The club, after all, made no secret of their aims.
Results have been inconsistent at best. But, with the squad that’s on board, the truth is their results haven’t been good enough so far.
As always in football, what will be, will be.
Make no mistake. I dearly hope the Poppies can turn it around. They have the squad of players to do it and they have a manager who has defied the odds in the past.
But a defeat this weekend is almost unthinkable...