Poppies ready to return after 'an eternity' on the sidelines

Kettering Town will play their first game since October 19 when they host Darlington this weekend
Paul Cox and Kettering Town are ready to return to action. Picture by Peter ShortPaul Cox and Kettering Town are ready to return to action. Picture by Peter Short
Paul Cox and Kettering Town are ready to return to action. Picture by Peter Short

Paul Cox admits it feels like “an eternity” since Kettering Town last played.

The Poppies haven’t been in competitive action since the 3-1 defeat at Buxton in the fourth qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup on October 19 due to an outbreak of Covid-19 within their squad.

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Since then, Kettering have faced a battle to keep Cox at the club after he was approached about the manager’s position at Vanarama National League North rivals AFC Telford United.

It was a battle the Poppies ultimately won with Cox choosing to stay at Latimer Park.

The manager’s focus is now on a busy month ahead as Kettering return to action with a home clash against Darlington tomorrow (Saturday) while another game at Latimer Park follows against Blyth Spartans next weekend with a trip to AFC Rushden & Diamonds in the NFA Hillier Senior Cup sandwiched in between next Tuesday night.

And Cox believes a carrot has been dangled in front of his players as they bid to maintain what has, overall, been a good start for his new-look squad.

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“It seems to have been an eternity since we last played,” the Poppies boss said.

“The boys have been looking after themselves and I think everyone is just looking forward to getting back into it again.

“The last game we played was at Buxton and I think we were all very downhearted with what happened after we had been in such a commanding position in the first game and then also taking the lead in the replay.

“After that, you would probably say you wanted a game as quick as possible to get over it.

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“That hasn’t been possible but, on the flip side, we have had a bit of time to get the house in order, to reflect and make sure we are ready to push on and attack the games we have coming up. I think the boys just want a game of football now.

“It’s two home games in front of our own crowd and I think the players are champing at the bit.

“I think the results have been fairly kind to us while we haven’t been playing and we now have games in hand on some clubs.

“Of course, you have to pick up points in those but that’s the carrot that has been dangled in front of us. If we can win these games then we could find ourselves in a very good place.

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“First and foremost, we have to focus on Darlington and they had a good result at the weekend and it will be a really tough game.

“But I want to see us getting back to that same freshness and impetus we showed early in the season.”

The Poppies, meanwhile, made a move to strengthen their squad last night with the arrival of striker Gerry McDonagh, who has signed on a one-month loan deal from National League side FC Halifax Town.

The 23-year-old's career began at Nottingham Forest, before having loan spells at Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers, Cambridge United and Aldershot Town.

The Dublin-born former Republic of Ireland Under-17 forward has also played for Barnsley and Tamworth.