Kettering Town brought the curtain down on their promotion-winning campaign as they were edged out by Weymouth in a penalty shoot-out in the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Championship Match.
But what did we learn?
One team had to win but this was ultimately a day of celebration for both clubs.
Both the Poppies and Weymouth were part of a remarkable Premier Division last season in which no fewer than five clubs did enough to win the title in any normal campaign. And the strength of that division has been shown this season with both Kettering and the Terras claiming their respective Central and South titles. The outright champions of the Southern League still needed to be decided and, in the end, it was Weymouth who went home with the giant shield after a well-contested match at Latimer Park. However, this ultimately turned into a day of celebration for both teams and their fans and it was very much a case of handshakes all round once the final whistle had been blown on their successful campaigns.
For the first time in a long time, Kettering’s clinical edge deserted them.
Goals were never really a problem for the Poppies during their title-winning season but, on this occasion, their clinical edge wasn’t quite there. They dominated for long periods and had enough chances to win the game in the first half alone. Rhys Hoenes, who has been so good in front of goal, produced a miss of the season candidate and then also saw a penalty saved in normal time. In the end, Brett Solkhon did find the net for the Poppies to force a penalty shoot-out but this was a game Kettering really should have won. However, if your clinical edge is going to desert you, it’s better it happens when there isn’t as much on the line.
The penalty shoot-out was as good as you will see anywhere else.
It takes a lot of nerve to step up to take a penalty in a shoot-out, even when the stakes may not be that high. So let’s give credit to everyone involved in this one. Everyone hit the target and it took an excellent save from Weymouth’s Mark Childs to deny Marcus Kelly and swing things into the Terras’ favour. Before then, neither goalkeeper had been given any chance, such had been the quality of the spot-kick.
The future of Brett Solkhon is an interesting situation. He surely has to stay.
He may be 36 and he really has nothing else to prove, but Brett Solkhon has once again been a key component in what Kettering Town have achieved this season. He’s chipped in with goals, and some important ones at that, and he is, of course, very much the darling of the terraces at Latimer Park. The Poppies are about to make a big step up to the National League North and some may well question whether Solkhon can make that step with them as he heads into the twilight of his career. But, on the evidence of this season, he still has a lot to offer. He has kept himself incredibly fit and he is just a good person to have around the place. He deserves to stay and, if he does, you can guarantee that he will stamp his mark on the Poppies’ return to Step 2.
The season may be over but an intriguing summer starts here.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from covering football over the past few years it’s that the season never really ends! Yes, the leagues are now completed but now the silly season starts as clubs and players start looking around to see what’s next for them. Marcus Law will be busy this summer. It’s fair to assume that he will be keen to keep the vast majority of this title-winning squad together for a crack at the National League North. But, as with every summer, there will be departures and arrivals. There are areas of the Poppies squad that do need strengthening up as they head into, quite literally, a different level of football. Law will keep his cards close to his chest, he always has done and always will. But you can guarantee that the hard work to ensure the Poppies are competitive at the next level has already started.