Kettering Town bounced back from a midweek defeat to move 11 points clear at the top with a victory at Latimer Park.
But what did we learn?
I’m not going to call it yet but it’s now going to take an implosion of epic proportions to deny Kettering automatic promotion.
Plenty have been saying it for weeks, indeed some thought it would be a foregone conclusion after the Poppies’ blistering start but it’s now fair to say that they really should go on and win the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central title. Ahead of last weekend’s game at Lowestoft Town, the general sense was that if Kettering took seven or nine points from the next three matches then they would be in an almost unassailable lead at the top. In the end, they took six out of nine and now sit on level games with Stourbridge holding an 11-point advantage. There are just eight games to go and the Poppies will have to lose at least four of them to give their nearest rivals a chance to overtaking them. This is football and strange things can happen so Kettering must continue to focus on the job at hand and see it through.
The Poppies have shown they have character after another good response after a setback.
Once you get towards the middle of March without suffering back-to-back league defeats then you know you are probably in for a good season. No team is ever going to win every game but when any setbacks do arrive, the attention always turns to how they will react to it. And, in that respect, Kettering have got it spot on. All five defeats they have suffered this season have been followed by a win in their next league match. The strength of character within the Poppies’ ranks has, perhaps, been underestimated somewhat this season. But, having suffered that loss to Coalville Town in midweek, they immediately bounced back in the appropriate manner.
You need things to go for you and the key moments went in Kettering’s favour.
For the first 18 minutes of this game, things were firmly in the balance and, in all honesty, Banbury probably looked the more threatening when they went forward. In any season where you hope to achieve something, you need moments to go your way and when former Kettering man Edmund Hotter went flying into Craig Stanley, it was a game-changer. Hotter really didn’t need to go in with two feet like he did. The ball was there to be won once he decided to go in with two feet, the decision was a fairly straightforward one for the official. The Poppies took full advantage of the numerical advantage to go 2-0 up and then another moment went for them. Ravin Shamsi’s shot looked like it was going to beat Paul White anyway but Joe Iaciofano stuck a leg out to get the final touch and did it from an offside position. Barely 60 seconds later, the Poppies went 3-0 up to end the game as a contest. Fine margins indeed. And on this occasion, they were firmly in the home side’s favour.
The easiest man-of-the-match nomination of the season, well played Gary Stohrer.
Once this season is over, everyone will reflect on the star performers and it would be a shame if Gary Stohrer’s name doesn’t come up in the conversation. Having started the campaign in such impressive fashion, a broken foot kept Stohrer sidelined for a number of weeks. But when you are as versatile as him, you just know there will be a job waiting for you when you return. On this occasion, he was given a midfielder role and with the conditions ensuring it was a bit of a battle in there, he seemed to revel in it. He got around the pitch, he made tackles and he passed the ball well. And he also chipped in with a goal of the month contender, showing excellent technique to fire home on the volley after Dan Holman’s cross had only been half-cleared. Stohrer is a good, honest and hard-working player and he thoroughly deserved his man-of-the-match award for this display.
It’s never over until it’s over and there is a burning desire to try to get it done as quickly as possible.
Brett Solkhon said it after the 2-1 success over Rushall Olympic and Marcus Law reiterated it after this latest win. Kettering are in a position of power at the top but, from their point of view, the sooner they can wrap things up the better. The Poppies have worked hard to open up the 11-point advantage and now they must make sure they offer no hope to Stourbridge or anyone else. You can never afford to let your guard down and Kettering must head to Biggleswade Town next week looking to, at the very least, maintain their lead. Plenty of people believe it is already over. The sooner the Poppies confirm it, the better.