Kettering Town bounced back from a miserable defeat at Banbury United with a five-star show at Latimer Park.
But what did we learn?
If you’re going to respond from a defeat, it’s better to do it with fire and fury. And Marcus Law is a man who seems fired up.
Marcus Law didn’t take much pushing in his post-match interview. Indeed, a sports reporter’s job is made all the more easier when he doesn’t really have to talk. Law and his players knew full well that what happened in the 4-1 defeat at Banbury wasn’t good enough and it resulted in a meeting between them all during the week in a bid to, as the manager described it, ‘refocus’. But Law was clearly furious about some of the comments that appeared on social media in the wake of that loss, not least calls for him to be sacked after the Poppies had slipped to just their third defeat in 18 league matches at the time. The Kettering boss felt he had been ‘insulted’ rather than criticised in some quarters and he was all-too-willing to address that after this impressive response. Whatever lit a fire under the manager and his players during the week, it paid off as they turned in a powerful display and ended up with a big win over a team who had won their previous four matches. There has always been an undercurrent between Law and sections of the Kettering supporters ever since he returned to the club. Some of the criticism levelled at him has, at times, been justified. But this is the here and now and Kettering now have their best chance to move back up to Step 2. And, trust me, no club has ever won a title unless everyone from the chairman to the man who pays his tenner are, in the main, on the same page. Criticise constructively if you need to, I know I will. But insults and calling for a manager’s head when the team are on course for a title? Leave it out…
Lindon Meikle and Michael Richens are already in the running for the next goal of the month competition.
Despite the final scoreline, this wasn’t a straightforward afternoon for Kettering. They had the better of things throughout but the first goal, as it always is in any game, was going to be crucial. In the end, they got two in the first half and both were absolute crackers. Lindon Meikle’s 25-yard strike couldn’t have been more in the top corner if he’d tried and then captain Michael Richens followed suit right on half-time with an equally as good long-range effort. It’s not fresh news that those two have goals like that in their lockers. But when you’re pushing hard at the top of the league, you need your quality to shine through at times. And Meikle’s and Richens’ timing couldn’t have been better on this occasion.
Three changes to the back four but it made the Poppies more resolute.
Marcus Law had the managerial licence to make changes after seeing his team soundly beaten at Banbury and he took full advantage of it. He changed three of his back four, a bold move in itself, and it paid off. Luke Graham and Brett Solkhon were, in general, rock-solid at the heart of the defence (experience counts for so much sometimes) and this game was tailor-made for someone like Gary Stohrer who slotted back in at left-back. Stohrer was one of the star performers in the early stages of the season before a broken foot ruled him out for a few weeks. He has, perhaps, been a bit unlucky not to be back in the team on a regular basis. But, on this evidence, he won’t be dislodged anytime soon.
Kettering are a better side with Rhys Hoenes in it.
The other change Law made was to bring Rhys Hoenes back into the starting line-up. This was one move plenty of fans had called for in the wake of the defeat at Banbury and Law obliged. It’s tricky with the array of attacking players the Poppies have at their disposal at the moment. But this game certainly proved that the team has an extra dimension when he’s in there. Hoenes is blessed with the one thing you can’t really coach - pace. Of course, you need to play to his strengths and Kettering certainly did that. They got the ball in behind for him to run onto, Adam Cunnington used his height and power to win plenty of flick-ons and Hoenes’ incredible work-rate ensured Hitchin’s back four didn’t have a quiet moment. He was outstanding as a lone striker in the early part of the season and was unfortunate to find himself on the bench at times. As long as he is fit, he surely has to play...
The hectic schedule continues, strap yourselves in.
Kettering simply had to get their festive fixtures off to a good start. Job done. But now it must be followed up at rock-bottom Bedworth United on Boxing Day. No excuses, if you’re chasing a title then you can’t afford to drop points in games such as that. But they then face two of their biggest games and tests of the season. King’s Lynn Town are in ominously good form at the moment and will be keen to show they can still have a say in the title when the Poppies head to The Walks next Saturday. And then, of course, it’s AFC Rushden & Diamonds at Latimer Park on New Year’s Day. Matches really won’t get much bigger this season. Come through those unscathed and Kettering will be in good nick going into the new year. But if they dont, well...