FEATURE: 10 memorable matches from last season

The football season, for everyone, has come to a shuddering halt.

By Jon Dunham
Friday, 10th April 2020, 8:03 am
Updated Friday, 10th April 2020, 8:06 am
Dan Nti sent Latimer Park into raptures after his late goal ensured Kettering Town enjoyed a winning start to the season against AFC Telford United. Picture by Peter Short
Dan Nti sent Latimer Park into raptures after his late goal ensured Kettering Town enjoyed a winning start to the season against AFC Telford United. Picture by Peter Short

These exceptional circumstances mean that the 2019-20 campaign may well become the one that never really existed.

But, for our local clubs, there were still some memorable matches to look back on…

Saturday, August 3

Dan Nti scored Kettering Town's late winner on the opening day. Picture by Peter Short

Kettering Town 2 AFC Telford United 1

The stage was set for Kettering Town.

Having been promoted to the Vanarama National League North as Southern League Premier Central champions, a strange summer followed as manager Marcus Law left the club and former player Nicky Eaden returned as the new boss.

Pre-season, in general, had gone reasonably well with the vast majority of the squad staying on while new faces arrived.

Charlie Wise opened the scoring in Corby Towns success over fellow high-flyers Berkhamsted. Picture by Alison Bagley

Old adversaries AFC Telford United were their first opponents on their return to Step 2 and it was a picturesque and sun-kissed afternoon at Latimer Park.

Kettering fell behind to Steph Morley’s superb free-kick on the stroke of half-time but levelled soon after the break thanks to summer signing Joel Carta.

Drama followed as Sam Cartwright was sent-off for a foul in the penalty area but Paul White saved Aaron Williams’ resulting spot-kick, something the Poppies goalkeeper would make a habit of during the season.

And, in a dramatic late twist, the 10 men snatched the victory late on through another summer addition Dan Nti.

Jack Ashton was AFC Rushden & Diamonds late hero against Stourbridge. Picture courtesy of HawkinsImages

It was the perfect start although, as we know, things got tougher after that.

Saturday, September 14

Halesowen Town 1 Corby Town 2

This turned out to be a clash between two teams who were tipped to be and subsequently went on to become title contenders in the Southern League Division One Central.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds captain Liam Dolman celebrates his late winner in the 3-2 victory at Leiston. Picture courtesy of HawkinsImages

But for Corby Town, this ended up being an early indication of their credentials against the highly-fancied Yelz, who were relegated from Step 3 at the end of the previous campaign.

A crowd of over 600 were on hand at The Grove to see Jordon Crawford give Corby the lead, only for Luke Yates to equalise nine minutes before half-time.

Sam Warburton’s first goal of the season restored the Steelmen’s advantage in the second period and they then held on despite the 10-man hosts putting them under pressure.

It was an early but key moment for then joint-managers Ashley Robinson and Gary Mulligan in their bid to take Corby on a promotion charge.

Saturday, November 16

Kettering Town 4 Blyth Spartans 4

Jordon Crawford celebrates one of his goals as he hit a perfect hat-trick for Corby Town against Aylesbury United. Picture by Alison Bagley

By this stage, the Poppies had pretty much sunk to the depths in the National League North.

Nicky Eaden had been sacked following an embarrassing FA Cup exit at Sutton Coldfield Town and the team were looking doomed at the wrong end of the table.

Former player Paul Cox had been appointed as the new boss at the end of October and his impact was immediate as the Poppies beat fellow strugglers Bradford Park Avenue 4-0 before following it up with a 2-1 success at Guiseley.

All of a sudden, spirits were high for the clash with another of the teams down there with them - Blyth Spartans.

At this point, the wet autumn had taken its toll on the Latimer Park pitch but the two teams served up a real thriller on the battlefield.

Blyth had a very useful weapon in their armoury in the shape of former Newcastle United winger Callum Roberts, who would be sold to Notts County later in the season.

And he showed why on this day with a magnificent display. He opened the scoring with a low shot, set up Blyth’s second for Ryan Hutchinson and when Roberts thundered home a superb third before half-time, the Poppies looked dead and buried.

But Kettering, with some choice words from their manager ringing in their ears, stormed back after half-time with Michael McGrath and Luke Graham scoring from corners before Roberts completed a fine hat-trick to make it 4-2.

However, there was more drama to come. Lindon Meikle’s close-range finish gave the Poppies hope and the stage was set for Tre Mitford, on as a substitute, to announce himself to the Kettering faithful as he bundled home the last-minute equaliser to send the majority of Latimer Park into pandemonium.

Saturday, November 23

Corby Town 3 Berkhamsted 2

This turned out to be one of the better games I watched last season.

Two of the high-flyers clashed at Steel Park with Berkhamsted arriving with an unbeaten record at the time.

The Steelmen survived some early scares before Charlie Wise put them in front and that was followed, five minutes later, by a second when Jake Duffy’s perfect pass played in his midfield sparring partner Joe Burgess who doubled the lead.

But Berkhamsted showed why they were a force to be reckoned with and goals from Stephen Hatch and Matt Cooper ensured things were level just before the hour mark.

However, Corby introduced new signing Ryan Robbins into the action and he made an immediate impact as he put the hosts back in front from close-range.

The Steelmen were indebted to Alastair Worby for a couple of big saves to keep them in front but they held on to secure the points and move back to the top of the table.

Saturday, November 30

AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Stourbridge 2

Having had something of a ‘mixed bag’ of results in the early stages of the Southern League Premier Central season, Diamonds headed into this home clash with one of the pre-season title favourites on the back of two wins in a row, which had put them on the brink of the play-off places.

By the end of the day, Andy Peaks’ team were in the top five.

A close first half ended with Stourbridge taking the lead through Jamie Willetts but Diamonds came out after the restart and produced an excellent display in the second period.

They equalised when Tom Lorraine followed in to score after Jordan Macleod’s penalty had been saved and, within a minute, they were in front as Ben Acquaye fired home a superb shot across goal.

Diamonds were pegged back when the Glassboys levelled things up thanks to Aaron Lloyd’s header from a corner.

But late drama was to follow as Jack Ashton popped up with the late winner at the far post following a corner.

Saturday, January 11

Spennymoor Town 1 Kettering Town 2

Kettering Town’s revival under Paul Cox went to a new level in the north-east early in the new year.

Having looked dead and buried when Cox arrived, a fine run of form had taken them out of the relegation zone ahead of this encounter against play-off chasing Spennymoor who had won 2-0 with consummate ease at Latimer Park in October.

The Poppies fell behind to a deflected free-kick from home marksman Glen Taylor but they battled back and eventually left their hosts stunned.

Matthew Taylor’s far-post effort found its way in and, just when it seemed a useful point was in the bag, it was turned into three in stoppage-time.

And it was a moment to remember for young Mansfield Town loanee Jason Law who fired home an excellent strike to seal what Cox felt was the best win of his reign to that point.

Saturday, January 11

Leiston 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3

There’s nothing better than a last-gasp victory!

AFC Rushden & Diamonds enjoyed a superb run of form in January but certainly didn’t always do things the easy way.

Having made the trip to Suffolk to take on a rejuvenated Leiston side, Diamonds looked to be in control of things when an own-goal put them in front.

But the game was turned on its head late in the opening period when two quick goals had Leiston leading 2-1.

Diamonds pushed and pushed and pushed after the break and finally found a way through with seven minutes to go when Greg Kaziboni fired home.

At that point, a draw looked like a useful result.

But then, in the final minute, captain fantastic Liam Dolman sparked wild scenes of celebration when he shot home after being teed up by Tom Lorraine.

Saturday, January 11

Corby Town 5 Aylesbury United 2

With the race for the Southern League Division One Central title still firmly in the balance at the turn of the year, Corby Town picked a good time to produce their best display of the campaign on what proved to be a memorable day for hometown hero Jordon Crawford.

Leading the table at the time, the Steelmen stormed out of the blocks with Elliot Sandy putting them in front before Crawford doubled the advantage to make it 2-0 after just seven minutes.

The game was up for Aylesbury when Joe Burgess made it three in the second half but the day belonged to Crawford who went on to complete a perfect hat-trick (right foot, left foot, header).

Aylesbury did pull two goals back late on but that couldn’t take the shine off one of the better days for the Steelmen.

Saturday, January 25

Nuneaton Borough 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1

There are some games that come along that truly make you believe and this was one of them for AFC Rushden & Diamonds in their pursuit of a play-off place.

On the back of a timely six-match unbeaten run, Andy Peaks’ team made the short trip to take on fellow play-off contenders Nuneaton Borough.

What followed was a near-perfect away performance. Strong in defence and a threat in attack, Diamonds bided their time and then struck at the perfect moment.

With just two minutes remaining, Ben Acquaye was fouled in the area and Ben Farrell stepped up to beat Tony Breeden from the penalty spot to send the healthy away support into raptures.

Saturday, February 2

Rothwell Corinthians 3 Deeping Rangers 1

Regardless of how the season ended, it was a campaign to remember for Rothwell Corinthians.

Former Kettering Town assistant-manager Mitch Austin arrived in the summer and his passionate and infectious character clearly rubbed off on those around him as he led the club on record-breaking runs in both the FA Cup and FA Vase.

Their form in the United Counties League Premier Division was steady all season, taking them into the top 10 before matches were suspended.

But, perhaps their most memorable day came at the beginning of February when they took on the ever-consistent Deeping Rangers in the semi-finals of the UCL Knockout Competition at Sergeants Lawn.

Most observers probably had Deeping down as the favourites to advance but Corinthians took an early lead through Andy White before Kalon Peniasko’s powerful header doubled the advantage.

Jordan Macleod got the visitors back into it from the penalty spot but Merson Styles’ second-half spot-kick sealed the deal for Austin’s men as Corinthians moved into their first-ever UCL Knockout final.

Unfortunately, that final with Holbeach United will now go down as the one that was never played.

Jason Laws fine stoppage-time strike earned Kettering Town a 2-1 success at Spennymoor Town. Picture by Peter Short
Rothwell Corinthians enjoy the moment after Kalon Peniaskos header in the UCL Knockout Competition semi-final success over Deeping Rangers. Picture by Finbarr Carroll