VERDICT – Poppies show the corner may be being turned

Rene Howe heads off to celebrate after he scored Kettering Town's third goal against Chesham United. Picture by Jim McAlwane
Rene Howe heads off to celebrate after he scored Kettering Town's third goal against Chesham United. Picture by Jim McAlwane

Are we seeing Kettering Town turning the corner?

Time will tell on that one but the Poppies are certainly doing a decent enough job to convince their followers that that may well be the case.

The performance against Burscough in the FA Trophy was clearly a tipping point.

Since then, no fewer than five new signings have arrived and, all of a sudden, a bit of good feeling seems to be swirling around Latimer Park.

A 93rd-minute equaliser is enough to give anyone a lift and, after the Poppies got just that at Merthyr Town last weekend, they followed it up with an even better result.

Make no mistake, the 3-0 verdict over Chesham United flattered Kettering because they were in a real game all evening against the FA Cup heroes of the Southern League.

But when it came to being clinical in front of goal, the Poppies were just that.

There’s no doubt that the injection of fresh blood into the squad has had a positive effect.

And the four who featured all made their own impacts.

Liam Bateman was outstanding at right-back all evening while Herve Pepe-N’Goma produced a battling display in a holding midfield role.

Wilson Carvalho grabbed his second goal in as many games and then there was Rene Howe, who made a return to playing after a seven-month absence and did it in a Poppies shirt.

It was almost inevitable that Howe would find the net and he did just that when he made it 3-0 with just 35 minutes on the clock.

Those new faces have been added in the right areas. And, with the rest of the Kettering players having an extra spring in their step, it all added up to a very impressive victory in extremely tough conditions.

The Latimer Park pitch was given the go-ahead after a couple of inspections and while the heavy rain created a bog on the surface, it didn’t stop either side from giving it a real go, particularly in a frantic first half.

Chesham were a threat in attack all night and they were the better side in the opening exchanges.

They won six corners in the first 14 minutes and went on to have many more before the night was out.

But they were continually thwarted by some heroic defending as well as decent performance from goalkeeper Craig Hill, who had his best day in a Kettering shirt to date.

He saved from Sam Youngs early on and the fine defensive work paved the way for the Poppies to get their own attacking game going.

But when they did break the deadlock on 20 minutes there was a hint of good fortune about it. Carvalho shaped to cross from the right and his delivery was so good that it beat Shane Gore all ends up and sailed into the top far corner. A cross? A shot?

No-one of a Kettering persuasion cared.

But if that was fortunate, the way the lead was doubled was a thing of beauty.

James Brighton, one of the consistent performers in a season that has been blotted by inconsistency, drove forward from midfield, exchanged passes with Elliot Sandy and then skipped past two more challenges before beating Gore with a low finish.

It was Brighton’s first goal for the club and one to remember.

But Chesham weren’t ready to lie down. Indeed, they took the game to hosts.

George Fenton thumped a header from yet another corner off the crossbar while Hill saved well from Toby Little’s far-post volley and also denied Ryan Blake before the break.

However, the Poppies grabbed the game-clincher on 35 minutes.

Brighton delivered a corner from the right, Liam Canavan flicked it on and Howe was there to stab it home at the far post.

The second half proved to be exactly what Marcus Law would have wanted.

Kettering managed the game well. Hill was forced into one fantastic save when he reacted brilliantly to deny Blake from close-range.

But, aside from that, there were few other scares.

And, as Chesham tried desperately to chase the game, gaps began to appear at the other end.

Howe volleyed straight at Gore from another Brighton set-piece while substitute Will Grocott twice shot over.

Ultimately, another goal wasn’t needed as the Poppies saw this one out in impressive style.

It would be easy to get over-excited by what seems to be real upturn in fortunes in the last two matches.

What Kettering must now do is prove that this is them turning the corner.

And there’s no better time to do that than when the leaders come to town on Saturday...

Poppies: Hill; Bateman, Mulligan, Solkhon, Carruthers; N’Goma; Carvalho, Canavan (sub Grocott, 71 mins), Sandy (sub Gooding, 57 mins), Brighton; Howe (sub Ogbonna, 82 mins). Subs not used: Langdon, Stevens.

Chesham: Gore; Smith (sub Casey, 68 mins), Fenton, Ujah, Beasant, Little; Martin, Taylor, Youngs (sub Hayles, 75 mins); Bossman (sub Wadkins, h-t), Blake. Subs not used: Legg, Pearce.

Referee: Nick Holmes.

Goals: Carvalho (20 mins, 1-0), Brighton (24 mins, 2-0), Howe (35 mins, 3-0).

Attendance: 401.