Poppies collapse to heavy loss in front of record low crowd

Poppies boss Thomas Baillie
Poppies boss Thomas Baillie

Kettering Town broke yet another unwanted record as they collapsed to a 6-2 defeat to St Albans City at Steel Park.

The attendance of 154 is officially the lowest-ever crowd for a first-class Poppies game, that being league or cup and excluding competitions such as the NFA Hillier Senior Cup.

And those who did brave the cold at a snowy Steel Park witnessed a big disappointment as an encouraging first-half display became a distant memory as the visitors produced a ruthless display in front of goal to boost their play-off chances in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division.

But it was those three numbers of 154 that caught the eye. Interest in the Poppies, at Corby anyway, is low. It must sure get the minds of those trying to give the club a future ticking over.

Poppies boss Thomas Baillie was forced into one change from the team that drew 1-1 at Cambridge City as Ben Ford came in for Jamie Griffiths, who was missing because of illness.

But any hopes of Kettering carrying on from that encouraging draw at Cambridge were wiped out inside the first six minutes.

Lewis Wilson had already sent a first-time effort wide of the mark but there was no mistake from visiting right-back Josh Urquhart at the other end.

The ball was squared across the pitch and Urquhart gave Poppies goalkeeper Michael Quirke no chance as he unleashed a stunning 25-yard strike into the top corner.

Kettering’s response to that early setback was good though and Wilson shot off target before Verma managed to wriggle clear but saw his final effort blocked.

Wilson also found the side-netting after Ford’s free-kick had been saved by Nick Jupp but just as the hosts looked to be building momentum, disaster struck.

A long ball forward was there for Henry Eze to deal with. But his header back towards Quirke didn’t have enough pace and James Comley gratefully took the ball on and fired past the helpless goalkeeper.

But just as it seemed like game over, it was game on seven minutes later when Verma rose to head home Ford’s corner.

That gave the hosts an extra spring in their step and Wilson was denied by Jupp when the ball broke for him in the area, although the connection with the final effort wasn’t as powerful as the striker would have liked.

But a golden opportunity went begging as the first half moved into stoppage-time. An inch-perfect cross from Ford found the unmarked Chris Logan but he somehow headed over the crossbar.

And Kettering paid a heavy price for those missed chances five minutes after the restart.

Former Poppies winger Richard Graham sent a free-kick into the penalty area and Eze attempted to head it away but it came off the back of his head and looped into the net with Quirke scrambling for fresh air.

And it was game over seven minutes later when Chris Henry threaded a ball through and former Northampton Town trainee Greg Ngyoi made no mistake with a low finish.

It all became a bit scrappy after that as St Albans settled for what they had. Kettering were unable to create any clear-cut chances and it needed Eze to head Henry’s effort off the line to keep the score down.

But St Albans did add to it with Ngyoi racing away and finishing well for number five before Ford responded with a good strike to make it 5-2.

However, in true basketball style, St Albans went straight down the other end with substitute Elliot Bailey scoring from close range after Henry’s strike had struck the post.

That rounded off another miserable night for the Poppies, on and off the pitch.

Is interest really that low? Are people that bewildered? Answers on a postcard...

Poppies: Quirke; Johnston, Eze, Crowie, Fox; Hamilton (sub Muzvimbiri, 59 mins), Logan, Hicks, Ford; Verma; Wilson. Subs not used: Talbot, Bradshaw, Glen.

St Albans: Jupp; Urquhart, Bruce, Wharton, Eadie (sub Scott, 17 mins); Kaloczi (sub Shaw, 54 mins); Keenleyside, Comley, Henry, Graham (sub Bailey, 73 mins); Ngyoi. Subs not used: Wadkins, Martin.

Referee: Paul Burnham.

Goals: Urquhart (6 mins, 0-1), Comley (27 mins, 0-2), Verma (34 mins, 1-2), Eze og (50 mins, 1-3), Ngyoi (57 mins, 1-4), Ngyoi (78 mins, 1-5), Ford (84 mins, 2-5), Bailey (87 mins, 2-6).

Bookings: Wharton, Henry, Kaloczi, Scott, Verma (all fouls), Jupp (unsporting behaviour).

Attendance: 154.