VERDICT: Solid Poppies make it two out of two

Rhys Hoenes and the Poppies players celebrate after he opened the scoring in the 2-1 win over King's Lynn Town. Pictures by Peter Short
Rhys Hoenes and the Poppies players celebrate after he opened the scoring in the 2-1 win over King's Lynn Town. Pictures by Peter Short

Two games down, two wins on the board. It’s the start Kettering Town would have dreamt of.

And while this Evo-Stik South League Premier Division Central season has only just been born, this 2-1 success over King’s Lynn Town could prove to be so important once things settle down.

Rhys Hoenes is bundled over for the first of two Kettering Town penalties at Latimer Park

Rhys Hoenes is bundled over for the first of two Kettering Town penalties at Latimer Park

There was nothing overly spectacular about it but the Poppies were solid, so, so solid all night and those are words that weren’t used about them enough in the last campaign.

With no recognised striker in the starting line-up, Kettering were forced to play to the strengths of the pacy Rhys Hoenes and, especially in the first half, they did just that - setting the trap for their visitors which they walked into.

At 2-0 up at half-time, the job was well on the way to being done and, even after Michael Clunan had made amends for an earlier penalty miss with a magnificent long-range strike after the break, the Poppies went into game-management mode.

No, it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright infuriating if you were a King’s Lynn fan but it sure was effective as the points were wrapped up.

In the end, there could be few arguments. The Poppies were just that bit better than the Linnets all over the pitch and the fact that neither goalkeeper really had that much to do in open play sums up what kind of game it was.

The big difference was that when Kettering got their two big chances - both from the penalty spot - they took them.

With Marcus Kelly now cleared for action, the Poppies started brightly and were rewarded inside the first five minutes.

Lathaniel Rowe-Turner sent a firm back-pass to goalkeeper Paul White and his punt up the pitch saw Hoenes racing up against Ryan Fryatt.

And, in what would prove to be a targeted attack, Hoenes got into behind and was bundled over by the defender before picking himself up to send Alex Street the wrong way from 12 yards.

But King’s Lynn were presented with a golden chance of their own to level things up.

Rowe-Turner was adjudged to have fouled Ryan Hawkins as he attempted to chase a loose ball that was eventually gobbled up by White.

Clunan stepped up but, just like at the same ground last season when he missed from the spot, he was denied again as White threw himself to his left to bat away the spot-kick.

That would prove to be the turning point and Kettering took full advantage just before the break.

Hoenes danced his way into the area, Fryatt put a leg out and the Kettering man went tumbling over. Another stonewaller and the same end result with Hoenes beating Street again.

There was always going to be a reaction from the visitors and, despite him missing his lines from 12 yards, Clunan continued to pull the strings while his set-pieces were a continual threat.

But, in general, Kettering dealt with what was thrown at them with Declan Towers, Durrell Berry and Rowe-Turner giving a masterclass in defending at times.

Indeed, it took a special strike from Clunan to halve the deficit as he was teed up and cracked a marvellous 25-yard strike in off the post.

That may well have caused some nerves but there was none of that from the Poppies.

They defended when they had to and they did it effectively. The only real concern was the lack of chances they created when they had the chance to counter.

There might have been one opening when Hoenes threatened to run clear, only to be poleaxed by Rory McAuley who was lucky to see yellow instead of red.

But no chances were forthcoming for either side as Kettering saw things out to make it a perfect first few days.

A job well done against one of the teams fancied to be right up there this season.

One thing is for certain though, if Kettering are able to build on this solid start then they will be there as well...

Poppies: White; Kelly-Evans, Towers, Berry, Rowe-Turner, Stohrer; Richens, Milnes (sub Solkhon, 62 mins), Meikle (sub Borg, 75 mins); Kelly; Hoenes (sub Pendley, 90 mins). Subs not used: Toseland, Shamalo.

King’s Lynn: Street; Thomas, Fryatt, McAuley, Blake-Tracey; Jarvis, Clunan, Richards, Hawkins; Hilliard, Gash (sub Parker, 32 mins, sub Limb 78 mins). Subs not used: Beevers, Jones, Stewart.

Referee: Ritchie Watkins.

Goals: Hoenes pen (5 mins, 1-0), Hoenes pen (42 mins, 2-0), Clunan (64 mins, 2-1).

Bookings: Fryatt, Rowe-Turner, McAuley (all fouls), Hilliard (unsporting behaviour).

Northants Telegraph star man: Rhys Hoenes - it would be unfair not to mention the Kettering defenders at this stage because each and every one of them were worthy of the accolade. But when a player wins and scores both penalties in a 2-1 win, it’s hard to look much further. However, this wasn’t just about he penalties. Hoenes is doing a real job for the Poppies in a lone frontman role when it’s not really his preferred position. He chased everything right up until the moment he was given his bow in stoppage-time. A real shift and there may be more to come.

Attendance: 876.