VERDICT – Poppies’ home misery goes on, despite a fine fightback

Wilson Carvalho scores Kettering Town's equaliser in the 2-2 draw with St Neots Town. Pictures by Peter Short
Wilson Carvalho scores Kettering Town's equaliser in the 2-2 draw with St Neots Town. Pictures by Peter Short

The wait goes on for Kettering Town.

If someone had said at the start of the season that the Poppies would still be waiting for their first home league win by the middle of October, the suggestion would have been laughed off.

Poppies boss Marcus Law shows his disappointment after the final whistle

Poppies boss Marcus Law shows his disappointment after the final whistle

Yet here we are, in the second half of October and still Marcus Law’s men can’t get the job done at Latimer Park in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division.

The list of reasons for such a concerning run of form is long - individual errors being at the head of them.

But, on this night, it was a collective effort that was to blame as they were forced to fight back for a 2-2 draw with St Neots Town.

Off the back of their FA Cup exit, many hoped a reaction would come and this would be the day that the fortunes changed on their own pitch.

Unfortunately, a woeful first-half display ensured that wouldn’t be the case.

Playing against a St Neots side they beat 5-1 away from home five weeks ago, the Poppies failed to adjust to the tricky conditions while the visitors took full advantage of having a strong breeze behind them in the opening half.

There wasn’t a great deal anyone could do about the goal that broke the deadlock, however.

James Hall found space on the left-hand side and sent a hopeful cross into the area. The wind caught it and Dean Snedker was left helpless as the ball dropped into the far corner.

Tough conditions or not, the fact Kettering failed to register an attempt on goal until the 33rd minute when Spencer Weir-Daley’s snap-shot drifted wide told you all you needed to know.

It was lacklustre at best and their display was summed up by the simplicity of St Neots’ second when Taylor Park headed a free-kick back across goal and Sam Mulready nodded home from close-range.

The writing appeared to be on the wall.

But Law, who is clearly under pressure, rolled the dice at half-time.

He threw on Liam Canavan and Aaron O’Connor from the bench and it had the desired effect.

Kettering were brighter with Canavan pulling the strings in the midfield while O’Connor’s movement finally gave the visiting defence something to think about.

The lifeline came on 58 minutes when Rene Howe flicked the ball into O’Connor’s path and he showed excellent composure to beat Alex Archer.

But the frontman should have levelled things up just two minutes later when Canavan’s pass sent him clean through on goal but this time Archer won the battle as he saved with his legs.

Snedker had to be at his best to tip over the bar when a clearance rebounded off Pete Clark and the ball was heading for the top corner before the goalkeeper intervened.

But, in general, the Poppies did most of the running and it was no surprise when they equalised with 15 minutes to go. This time, Wilson Carvalho was put in the clear and there was no mistake as he produced an emphatic low finish.

Plenty of time remained for a winner but it never came as Canavan fizzed an effort just over while Carvalho and substitute Callum Westwood both blasted over from decent positions.

Their second-half display possibly merited a winner but the Poppies really didn’t do enough over the full 90 minutes to merit that much-needed victory.

Yet another opportunity arrives for the first home league win of the campaign when Weymouth are the visitors on Saturday.

But, if it is to happen, Kettering must be the team they were in the second half of this one.

Many more displays like the one in the opening period will only prolong the agony and ensure the pressure continues to grow...

Poppies: Snedker; Bateman (sub Westwood, 73 mins), Haran, Langdon, Brighton; Hornby, Solkhon, Hicks (sub Canavan, h-t); Howe, Weir-Daley (sub O’Connor, h-t), Carvalho. Subs not used: Kinniburgh, McAlindon.

St Neots: Archer; Smith, Ward (sub Wood, 51 mins), Park, Jonny Hall; Spark, Clark, Hyem, Rogers; James Hall, Mulready. Subs not used: McGeorge, Wand, Heywood, Williams.

Referee: Matthew Smith.

Goals: James Hall (24 mins, 0-1), Mulready (44 mins, 0-2), O’Connor (58 mins, 1-2), Carvalho (75 mins, 2-2).

Bookings: Hyem, Jonny Hall (both fouls), Canavan (dissent).

Attendance: 374.