They may be down but Kettering Town showed there is still plenty of fight in their ranks as they claimed an impressive 1-0 victory over St Neots Town in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division at Steel Park.
Ben Ford’s excellent free-kick a minute into the second half proved to be enough for the Poppies as they gained revenge for the dramatic defeat in Cambridgeshire last month when they squandered a 3-0 lead and lost 4-3.
But they defended superbly on this occasion after Ford’s strike and were worthy winners by the end.
Poppies boss Thomas Baillie was forced into a couple of changes from the team that suffered a 4-2 home defeat to Chippenham Town at the weekend.
Pat Noubissie was replaced by Khalid Alleyne while Troy Johnston came in for the injured Louie Hamilton. Nathan Fox was declared fit, despite being forced off with a hip injury on Saturday.
St Neots started the better and Lewis Hilliard forced Michael Quirke into good save after a decent strike with the outside of his boot.
But from there, it was all very scrappy and Kettering were forced into an early change when Fox suffered a recurrence of his hip problem and was replaced by Aidan Bradshaw.
Hilliard fired over from a decent position but the main talking point of the half came just before the break when one of the referee’s assistants was forced to withdraw through injury.
After a lengthy break and an amusing PA announcement asking for any linesmen in the crowd to “wave their flag” a volunteer replacement was found.
The remainder of the half brought with it the best effort of the period when St Neots’ Jay Davies was unfortunate to see his free-kick from near the touchline cannon back off the crossbar.
Kettering were forced into another change at the break with Aman Verma forced off through injury but the Poppies were celebrating less than a minute into the second period when they took the lead.
Ford looked set to whip a free-kick into the area but instead he caught everyone, including visiting goalkeeper Jack Giddens, out by curling a lovely strike into the corner.
St Neots went close to equalising when Andre De Costa shot just wide of the post after being sent clear in the left channel while Nathan Hicks forced Giddens into a good save after a neat flick from Will Muzvimbiri.
The visitors really should have been back on level terms when Hilliard sent Nathan Koranteng clear but he could only blast over the bar with just Quirke to beat.
And they went close again when only a fine clearance by Johnston denied visiting substitute Tom Wood as he looked to get on the end of Hilliard’s cross.
But Kettering continued to work hard to keep their opponents at bay and they could have finished it off with three minutes to go when Muzvimbiri got a sight of goal but blasted over.
However, another goal wasn’t needed. St Neots threw everything at the Poppies in the dying moments but they defended with bravery and held on for a fine victory.
Poppies: Quirke; Logan, Eze, Crowie, Fox (sub Bradshaw, 14 mins); Hicks, Ford, Alleyne (sub Baillie, 65 mins), Muzvimbiri; Johnston; Verma (sub Glen, h-t). Subs not used: Talbot.
St Neots: Giddens; Meech, Lee, Hoyte, Adjei; Hilliard, Davies, Sear, Konadu (sub Safee, 64 mins), De Costa (sub Wood, 64 mins); Koranteng. Subs not used: Aucer, Conroy, Loudon.
Referee: Ian Rathbone.
Goal: Ford (46 mins, 1-0).
Booking: Logan, Ford (both fouls).