VERDICT – Leamington set the standard as Poppies are given a lesson

Action from Kettering Town's 2-0 defeat to Leamington at Latimer Park. Pictures by Steven Prouse
Action from Kettering Town's 2-0 defeat to Leamington at Latimer Park. Pictures by Steven Prouse

The standard has been set at Latimer Park.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Kettering Town who actually set it as they were given a real lesson by an impressive Leamington team who wrapped up a thoroughly deserved 2-0 success.

Spencer Weir-Daley gets on the ball for the Poppies against Leamington

Spencer Weir-Daley gets on the ball for the Poppies against Leamington

Hopes were high for the Poppies after a solid opening-day win at Dorchester Town but they were brought back down to earth with a massive bump in their first home game of the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division season.

There’s been plenty of talk about a promotion bid from Marcus Law’s team.

But perhaps it’s time just to hold that thought and concentrate on the job at hand because, on this evidence, they have a lot of work to do.

Aside from a bright first 15 minutes or so, the Poppies were out-thought, out-worked and out-played as Leamington did a real number on them.

The Brakes will be up there. They were last season and, if this display is anything to go by, they will be again.

They were, for the most part, everything Kettering weren’t.

In Jamie Hood and James Mace they had two centre-halves who didn’t give Rene Howe, Spencer Weir-Daley and, later on, Sam Smith any space to breath and headed everything in sight.

In Rob Thompson-Brown they had the best player on the pitch as he constantly picked holes in the home defence and in Ahmed Obeng and Ryan Rowe they had two attacking players simply too hot to handle.

Once Obeng had fired the visitors in front after 24 minutes the final outcome never really looked in doubt.

The Poppies huffed and puffed but were far too careless in possession and when they did get into decent positions, they were sorely lacking a bit of quality.

Tony Breeden, the best goalkeeper in the league and a king of gamesmanship, won’t have many easier evenings than this during the campaign as he was never really extended, despite the Poppies have plenty of proven attacking players on the pitch.

Kettering did start brightly and Breeden made routine saves from Howe and Weir-Daley while Liam Bateman and Liam Canavan both had shouts for penalties waved away.

But the threat was always there at the other end. Jack Edwards headed off target when he should have done better while a brilliant fingertip save from Paul Walker ensured Thompson-Brown’s free-kick crashed off the crossbar.

However, the breakthrough did come when Ahmed raced away on the left. He cut back inside past James Haran and then beat Walker with a firm strike inside the near post.

The Poppies weren’t helped by untimely injuries to both Ben Stephens and Canavan.

And any sort of bombardment of the Leamington goal never really transpired.

Indeed, the visitors continued to create the better chances.

Thompson-Brown left Walker helpless with a wonderful strike that cannoned back off the bar and Obeng somehow dragged an effort off target when a wonderful touch left him with just Walker to beat.

Rowe headed over and Walker produced another great stop to deny Thompson-Brown before a thoroughly deserved second goal finally arrived.

Obeng was too quick for Haran who tripped the winger in the area. And Rowe made no mistake as he converted from the penalty spot.

The Poppies did have the ball in the net late on through Weir-Daley but Brett Solkhon was penalised for handball in the build-up.

But that was as good as it got on a tough old night for Law’s men.

You can safely assume that Leamington will be one of the standard bearers this season.

So yes, the standard has been set. The Poppies and their manager have some serious work to do to get to it.

Poppies: Walker; Haran, Solkhon, Mulligan, Brighton; Hicks, Bateman (sub Westwood, 66 mins), Stephens (sub Langdon, h-t), Canavan (sub Smith, 47 mins); Weir-Daley, Howe. Subs not used: Carruthers, Wilson.

Leamington: Breeden; George, Hood, Mace, Gudger; Pond (sub Taundry, 90 mins), Edwards; Baker-Richardson, Thompson-Brown, Obeng (sub Moore, 81 mins); Rowe (sub Elvins, 89 mins). Subs not used: James, Quinn.

Referee: Matthew Smith.

Goals: Obeng (24 mins, 0-1), Rowe pen (76 mins, 0-2).

Bookings: Howe (foul), Rowe (unsporting behaviour), Edwards (dissent), Solkhon (deliberate handball).

Attendance: 605.