Poppies’ final home clash is “the game people thought they would never see”

Henry Eze will be back in the Kettering Town squad for Saturday's final home game of the season against Gosport Borough
Henry Eze will be back in the Kettering Town squad for Saturday's final home game of the season against Gosport Borough

Thomas Baillie believes Kettering Town’s final home match of the season against Gosport Borough tomorrow (Saturday) is “the game people thought they would never see”.

The Poppies’ campaign has been littered with off-field problems as they were forced to move out of Nene Park in October last year as the crippling financial issues very nearly ended the club’s 140 years in existence.

Instead, a massive rescue mission led by Ritchie Jeune and a band of volunteers saw them relocate again to Corby Town’s stadium while the future plans could see the club move back into the borough at Burton Park Wanderers’ Latimer Park ground.

However, there are still the two main hurdles of getting out of the long-term lease at Nene Park and Jeune agreeing a deal with current majority shareholder Imraan Ladak to complete a takeover of the club, something Jeune hopes to achieve soon after the season ends.

But Baillie, who took over as manager having initially assisted Alan Doyle as Kettering fought back from the brink, believes the fact the club will get to the end of the campaign still in existence is a reason to celebrate, even though they have been relegated for the second successive season.

Attendances have dropped at an alarming rate in recent months with people becoming disheartened at the plight of the club, as well as still being based a number of miles away from its hometown.

So the Poppies are swinging open the doors of Steel Park tomorrow for a ‘pay what you want’ occasion, which gives fans the chance to decide their own admission fee.

The hope is that more will turn up and help give Jeune and his colleagues an idea of what to budget for in terms of attendances for next season, which is likely to see Kettering in the Southern League Division One Central.

And Baillie said: “It is the last home game of the season and there are a lot of people out there who didn’t think they would see this day.

“The game against Bashley at Nene Park in October when they lost 7-0 – everyone thought that was the last home game.

“And, despite all the issues and the attendances going down, the people who want to give the club a future are still here. They have made it and I think they deserve a lot of credit for it.

“No-one knows what the future holds but just getting to the last home game is something worth celebrating. I hope we see some old faces coming back for it.

“On the pitch, it is a tough game because Gosport are fighting for a play-off place and there will be a lot of pressure on them.

“They need to win the game, we want to win the game. It should be a good contest because our form hasn’t been too bad recently.

“Our performances against the teams at the top have, in general, not been too bad. We want to produce another good performance.”

The Poppies will have central defender Henry Eze available again for the clash after he completed a three-match ban in Wednesday’s 2-1 home defeat to Barwell.