Late double sends Poppies to devastating defeat

Poppies boss John Beck
Poppies boss John Beck

It’s already fair to say that Kettering Town are facing a long old slog to avoid another relegation.

It may only be September but the Poppies, with the help of a 10-point deduction, find themselves stranded at the wrong end of the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division season after fellow strugglers Cambridge fought back from a goal down to seal a 2-1 success with two goals in the final five minutes.

It had all started so well for Kettering with Ed Palmer firing them into the lead inside two minutes.

The hosts then missed two other great chances but didn’t take them and it proved oh so costly as Cambridge came storming back.

And by the end, the visitors were worthy winners.

Pacome Gele made his long-awaiting debut for the hosts after his international clearance finally came through ahead of the game.

Boss John Beck made other changes with Michael King and Phil Ifil returned while Ben Gathercole was preferred in goal to Laurie Walker.

And even Beck probably couldn’t have dreamt of a better start as the Poppies took the lead inside the first two minutes.

Gele broke from midfield and found Warren Byerley on the left. After a bit of trickery, he squared to Palmer and the midfielder took aim for 20-yards and found the top corner with an excellent strike.

And it should have been 2-0 inside five minutes as Byerley charged down a clearance from visiting goalkeeper Zak Barrett and it was picked up by Jamie Griffiths who had a free run on goal. But Barrett regained his composure and made a smart save.

It was even from there and Robbie Nightingale should have done better for Cambridge when he headed straight at Gathercole.

But the Poppies so nearly doubled their lead almost immediately as the impressive Gele did some fine work on the left and his low cross was met by King who saw his shot cannon back off the post.

The visitors should have been out of it at that point but they responded well with Mitchell Bryant beating Gathercole to the ball but he was pushed too wide and sliced his final shot. And former Kettering man Dave Theobald also went close with a glancing header wide from a corner.

And as the half drew to a close, it was the visitors who continued to push for an equaliser.

Craig Hammond missed the ball completely with the goal at his mercy after good work from Luke Allen and Gathercole saved well from Joey Abbs soon after.

And they had an even better chance early in the second half as Bryant was sent clear of the Poppies back-line but could only lob into the side netting as Gathercole came out of his goal.

The visitors went close again when Ben Gerring deflected Allen’s shot over the bar and the other Poppies centre-half, Oscar Radford, also had to come to the rescue as he hacked the ball off the line after Gathercole only half-saved Abbs’ shot.

But the goal was always coming and Hammond finally struck on 85 minutes when he stabbed home from close range after Abbs’ bursting run and shot.

Then, disaster struck for the Poppies.

Allen raced away on the right and then squared it across for Hammond, who was unmarked, and he gleefully slammed home from a yard.

That was that. Deflation is the word you are looking for.

It’s a long old season for the Poppies from here.

Poppies: Gathercole; Ifil, Gerring, Radford, Lamplough; Burns, King (sub Gyasi, 80 mins), Palmer, Griffiths (sub Blazio-Muzvimbiri, 86 mins); Byerley, Gele (sub Mayo, 55 mins). Subs not used: Hervel, Walker.

Cambridge City: Barrett; Pepper, Theobald, Chaffey, Brighton; Allen, Nightingale (sub Lester, 82 mins), Cambridge (sub Prada, 71 mins), Abbs; Bryant (sub Midgley, 90 mins), Hammond. Subs not used: Bexfield, Ordonez.

Referee: John Scott.

Goals: Palmer (2 mins, 1-0), Hammond (85 mins, 1-1), Hammond (89 mins, 1-2).

Attendance: 399.