Troubled Poppies are beaten at home

Poppies boss John Beck
Poppies boss John Beck

Kettering Town slipped to defeat in the first home game of the season in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division.

The Poppies held a 1-0 lead at the break but Hemel Hempstead Town produced an impressive comeback as they pulled away from the Poppies after the break.

In the end, the visitors were worthy winners as the Poppies’ problems continue to grow both on and off the pitch.

With the off-field issues rumbling on in the background a sub-600 attendance showed that fans are now voting with their feet.

One would assume that something has to give behind the scenes if that is the sort of figure that will be inside Nene Park for home matches this season. For the record, former chairman Imraan Ladak was on hand to watch the match.

The attendance was also the lowest to watch a first home league game of the season for the Poppies since 808 watched them beat Bath City 2-0 in August 1986.

Poppies boss John Beck was forced into one change as club captain Matt Langston came in for the ill Jamie Griffiths while Romone McCrae made his debut after joining following his release from Sutton United and Laurie Walker replaced Ben Gathercole in goal.

And the hosts started brightly with ex-Poppies goalkeeper making a superb save from Warren Byerley’s close-range header after Omar Beckles had flicked on Oscar Radford’s long throw.

But the same routine paid dividends two minutes later, this time from the opposite side of the pitch.

Radford launched in his throw, Beckles nodded it on and Byerley’s header left Osborn rooted to the spot.

That breakthrough seemed to wake Hemel up and they so nearly levelled from the kick-off but Walker did well to push away Dave Pearce’s shot.

Osborn denied David Mayo at the other end as the game continued at a frantic pace and Pearce went close again for the visitors with a far-post header.

And it was Hemel who finished the half the strong as Pearce was woefully off target after skipping into the area before Victor Osobu somehow headed into the ground and over the bar from Matt Nolan’s right-wing cross.

Radford went close to extending the Poppies’ lead early on in the second half as his volley fizzed over the crossbar.

But Hemel continued to look dangerous and Walker saved brilliantly from Jake Gilbert before the equaliser arrived on 66 minutes.

A corner was only half-cleared and Dave King fired home a volley from 11 yards.

From then on, Hemel looked the more likely to grab a winner and Walker spilled a Peter Holmes free-kick before the crucial goal arrived with five minutes to go.

A cross from the left found Nolan unmarked and the former Kettering loanee produced a quite magnificent volley that gave Walker no chance.

Poppies (4-4-2): Walker; Palmer, Gerring, Langston, Radford; McCrae (sub Blazio, 89 mins), Burns, Beckles, Peake (sub M King, 32 mins); Byerley, Mayo. Subs not used: Hervel, Bonnett-Johnson, Gathercole.

Hemel Hempstead (4-4-2): Osborn; May, D King, Bruce, Hutchins; Mpi (sub Judge, 78 mins), Holmes, O’Leary (sub Gilbert, 61 mins), Osobu (sub Campana, 71 mins); Pearce, Nolan. Subs not used: Beagle, Duckett.

Referee: Nigel Smith.

Goals: Byerley (12 mins, 1-0), D King (66 mins, 1-1), Nolan (85 mins, 1-2).

Attendance: 597.