Poppies fight back to return to winning ways

Kettering Town joint-managers Thomas Baillie and Scott Machin
Kettering Town joint-managers Thomas Baillie and Scott Machin

Two goals in the space of five second-half minutes helped Kettering Town fightback and return to winning ways with a 3-1 success over North Greenford United at Latimer Park.

And it was the duo of Andy Hall and Brett Solkhon who did the damage for the Poppies after both returned to the club during the summer, while Andy Gooding rounded things off with a late penalty.

Things were looking a bit concerning after a flat first half, which the saw the visitors take the lead while Kettering huffed and puffed for the most part.

But they moved through the gears after the break and it proved too much for Greenford as the hosts wrapped up their fourth win in five Southern League Division One Central matches.

Joint-managers Thomas Baillie and Scott Machin made three changes to the line-up in the wake of the Poppies’ first defeat of the season Leighton Town in midweek.

Jamie McAlindon returned in goal while Henry Eze and Jonathon Thorpe were both handed their first starts of the season at the expense of Dan Crowie and Ross Oulton respectively.

Kettering enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening stages but there seemed a real flatness about their play, which was matched by the atmosphere on the terraces.

And there was real disappointment in the air when North Greenford stunned their hosts by taking the lead on 12 minutes.

A corner from the left wasn’t defended properly and, after a bit of pinball in the area, Andrew Manitou finally forced the ball home.

The Poppies tried to respond with Josh Moreman seeing a shot deflected just wide before Manitou’s header at the far post had to be cleared away by James Clifton.

Hall forced visiting goalkeeper Betista Valadao into his first save after good work from Moreman but it needed a terrific block from Tommy Hull to deny Greenford a second as he got in the way of Anthony O’Conner’s shot after he had been played in by Raheem Parker.

The Poppies did get better as the half went on and Eze volleyed wide while Thorpe was unable to get on the end of Moreman’s low cross.

They did have the ball in the net when Dubi Ogbonna converted a Thorpe pass but he had already been flagged offside and the half ended with skipper Steve Kinniburgh seeing a his cross bounce off the far post after Valadao completely misjudged it.

And that misjudgement was a sign of things to come as the Poppies drew level five minutes into the second half.

Hall won a free-kick 20 yards from goal and stood over it himself. He fired it towards goal with a bit of swerve and it was too much for Valadao, who didn’t get near it.

And just five minutes later the turnaround was complete. Andy Gooding found Thorpe with a short corner, he cut in and his shot was deflected in by Solkhon.

It was so nearly three when Eze saw his firm header smack off the underside of the crossbar from another Gooding corner while both Hall and Ogbonna sent efforts over.

The hosts and Kinniburgh were out of luck again with 14 minutes to go when his effort came back off the bar but they did grab their third in stoppage-time.

Substitute Louis Hamilton was hauled down in the area and, after Gooding had got the ball off Ogbonna, he stepped up to score from 12 yards.

Ogbonna wasn’t happy and went straight down the tunnel when he was substituted soon after the incident.

But that couldn’t take the gloss off a job well done. After their midweek setback, the Poppies are back on track ahead of the county derby with Daventry Town at Latimer Park on Monday (3pm).

Poppies: McAlindon; Clifton, Hull, Eze, Kinniburgh; Thorpe (sub Hamilton, 78 mins), Gooding, Solkhon, Hall; Moreman (sub Taylor, 74 mins), Ogbonna (sub Oulton, 90 mins). Subs not used: Bukasa, Robinson.

North Greenford: Valadao; Ekpitete, Kinsella, Dart, Brown; Many (sub Brown, 58 mins), Manitou (sub Dawson, 87 mins), O’Conner, Stead, Heneuhan (sub Ellies, 74 mins); Parker. Subs not used: Olongo, Borrell.

Referee: Josh Smith.

Goals: Manitou (12 mins, 0-1), Hall (50 mins, 1-1), Solkhon (55 mins, 2-1), Gooding pen (90 mins, 3-1).

Bookings: Hull, Moreman, Gooding, Manitou (all fouls).

Attendance: 563.