OPINION: Poppies must match the expectations of the fans - and the bookies

Marcus Law and new assistant-manager Richard Lavery will be hoping to plot an assault on promotion for Kettering Town this season
Marcus Law and new assistant-manager Richard Lavery will be hoping to plot an assault on promotion for Kettering Town this season

‘I am sure there will be stresses and strains along the way’.

Well it wouldn’t be Kettering Town if there wasn’t!
That quote was one that came out of Marcus Law as he looked ahead to the opening weekend of the Evo-Stik South League Premier Division Central.
The bookies believe this will be the season for the Poppies to make the next step with some making them favourites for the title.
And, after an interesting summer with a few notable ins and outs, you have to believe that they will be the reckoning once again.
After a season in which the Poppies racked up 97 points and scored 122 goals in their league campaign, it makes it hard to look at what needs to be improved.
It was an outstanding season, unfortunately four other clubs did as well or better and in the end the title and then the play-offs proved to be beyond Marcus Law’s team.
As you can see, goals were not a problem.
You’d like to think that would be the case again this time around but the blow of losing Aaron O’Connor to injury in pre-season and Mathew Stevens going back to Peterborough means there are two players who hit over 70 goals between them last time out who won’t be lining up for the start of the new campaign.
Nonetheless, the big problem for Kettering last season was in the defensive ranks.
After such a solid start, they gradually began to leak too many goals at the back and that ultimately proved costly, not least when they were beaten 3-1 in the play-off semi-final at Slough Town at the beginning of May.
Law was acutely aware of those issues and has moved to strengthen that area in the summer.
The likes of Orrin Pendley, Brett Solkhon and new signing Lathaniel Rowe-Turner will be charged with the central defensive duties while the return from injury of Durrell Berry is a huge boost alongside the capture of former Coventry City youngster Dion Kelly-Evans, who has impressed during pre-season.
You can also expect new assistant-manager Richard Lavery - the toughest of players both at the heart of defences and midfields in his prime - to have a key role to play in ensuring the volume of goals conceded is reduced this time.
Overall, the Poppies squad does look strong and, as the bookies observe, does look like it should be capable of challenging at the top.
But they won’t be alone in having those expectations on them.
King’s Lynn Town were highly impressive in the same division as Kettering last season and eventually lost out in the play-off final.
They will certainly be in the shake-up once again while Tamworth, who were relegated from the Vanarama National League North, are also expected to go well.
But it’s a new division with new opponents with the majority of teams stepping into the unknown somewhat.
So much of what Kettering did last season came because of the outstanding start they had and if they can produce something similar this time around, particularly with King’s Lynn visiting Latimer Park next Tuesday night, then it will stand them in good stead.
This will be their fourth season at Step 3 and a fourth campaign at the helm for Law.
There remains a demand from the club’s fanbase and the hierarchy for that matter, to make the big push to the next level.
Whatever happens, the Poppies probably won’t do things the easy way but the expectations are high and so they should be after the big effort of last season ultimately went unrewarded.
It’s not quite a case of ‘now or never’ but another year of missing out won’t do much to quieten the critics...