Kettering Town 2 King’s Lynn Town 1 - Five Things We Learned

Rhys Hoenes scores the second of his two penalties for the Poppies
Rhys Hoenes scores the second of his two penalties for the Poppies

Kettering Town made it two wins out of two as they edged out King’s Lynn Town at Latimer Park.

So, what did we learn?

Paul White denied Michael Clunan from the penalty spot in what proved to be a pivotal moment in Kettering Town's 2-1 victory over King's Lynn Town. Pictures by Peter Short

Paul White denied Michael Clunan from the penalty spot in what proved to be a pivotal moment in Kettering Town's 2-1 victory over King's Lynn Town. Pictures by Peter Short

Pay the penalty

This game was ultimately decided in the first half when it was a tale of three penalties.

Rhys Hoenes won one and scored it early on, sending Alex Street the wrong way.

But King’s Lynn were awarded one of their own and Michael Clunan stepped up.

Summer signing Declan Towers was at the heart of a fine defensive effort

Summer signing Declan Towers was at the heart of a fine defensive effort

He missed at the same ground on New Year’s Day, attempting a chip down the middle, which went horribly wrong.

Surely he would make amends this time? No. Paul White, as he has done in cup competitions in recent seasons, got it right and batted away the spot-kick to keep his side in front.

Hoenes went on to win another penalty and sent Street the other way to make it 2-0 and, despite Clunan finding the target from further out with a fine second-half strike, it was those first-half spot-kicks which proved decisive.

They’re always worth a practice at the end of training!

You can win a game without a recognised striker

It took me a little while to work out what formation the Poppies were playing as they look to adapt and cope without a recognised striker in their side.

But they have found an effective way of playing. It might not always be pretty but it starts with a defensive unit and then builds from there.

It requires a big work-rate in the middle of the pitch, something that was there in abundance and it requires whoever is tasked with the role as being the furthest player up the field to do the thankless task of running channels and putting pressure on the opponents.

For large parts of the game, Kettering pressed King’s Lynn and forced errors from them.

And, in targeted attacks, they picked their moments to win the key penalties that decided the game.

Yes, it’s easier if you have at least one striker on the pitch but with a bit thought, matches can be won without them.

There’s a real case for the defence

Marcus Law didn’t need telling, indeed, he said it himself immediately after the play-off semi-final defeat to Slough Town last season - something had to be done to sure up the Poppies defence.

Having scored 122 goals in their league games last time out, the roles have already been reversed with Kettering looking solid at the back and scratching around at the other end.

But defensively, it’s already a massive improvement. Declan Towers, the returning Durrell Berry and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner were excellent in this game and the fact King’s Lynn’s goal came from a superb long-range strike tells you all you need to know.

If they stay as solid as this for the whole season then everything else will take care of itself.

Rhys Hoenes is a massive pain in the backside - for opposing defenders

Even before he took his bow in stoppage-time, the pacy frontman was running channels and playing a pivotal role.

Yes, he won and scored the two penalties that decided the game but there was so much more to his performance than that.

The Poppies are somehow making do without a recognised striker in their starting XI at the moment and Hoenes is being tasked with the main attacking role.

But he seems up to the task. He’s quick, he gets the wrong side of defenders and he wins free-kicks and penalties thanks, in the main, to that blistering pace.

Whether he can maintain that incredible work-rate remains to be seen.

‘Game management’ is great if you’re on the right side of it

While Kettering did an excellent job defensively to keep King’s Lynn at bay after they pulled the goal back in the second half, their ‘game management’ was as equally as impressive.

Game management, gamesmanship, time-wasting, call it what you want.

When it’s your team doing it, it’s great. When it’s the opposition, they’re a bunch of cheats and time-wasters. That’s football.

Kettering did all they could to take the sting out of the game, taking that bit longer over throw-ins, set-pieces and substitutions to help ensure they got over the line.

It won’t be the last time they do it and it’s sure to happen to them at some stage as well.