VERDICT: Kettering Town’s play-off fate now in their own hands

The impossible dream is still alive and now it’s firmly in Kettering Town’s hands.

Monday, 2nd May 2022, 6:05 pm
Callum Stead takes the congratulations after he scored from the penalty spot in Kettering Town's 1-0 win over Alfreton Town. Pictures by Peter Short
Callum Stead takes the congratulations after he scored from the penalty spot in Kettering Town's 1-0 win over Alfreton Town. Pictures by Peter Short

The most unbelievable of campaigns goes down to the final day but, as some might have expected back in August, this isn’t about survival.

The Poppies did their bit by edging out Alfreton Town 1-0 at Latimer Park and then, with the ground almost empty, cheers erupted from all parts with the news of Gloucester City’s late, late equaliser at Boston United.

That 1-1 draw means that Kettering will go to Curzon Ashton next Saturday sitting in the final play-off position in the Vanarama National League North.

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It is the scenario many would have dreamed of as they woke up on Bank Holiday Monday, whether they believed it would happen is a different matter.

One thing is for certain, you can bet this young group of Kettering players will do all they can to finish the job next weekend.

Once again, their final home game of the campaign wasn’t a classic on the bobbly and unpredictable Latimer Park surface.

At times, the Poppies rode their luck but another superb defensive display saw them home with Callum Stead’s first-half penalty ultimately proving to be enough.

Action from Kettering Town's 1-0 success against Alfreton Town

There were few chances in a scrappy opening period.

Kettering went close when Stead latched onto Connor Kennedy’s through-ball but saw his first time effort drift agonisingly wide of the far post.

But Stead was involved in the key moment of the game.

He was played in by George Cooper and then went down under a challenge from Bailey Hobson.

It looked soft but referee Kristian Silcock was in no doubt as he immediately pointed to the spot.

And Stead was nerveless as he stepped up to score from 12 yards, although visiting goalkeeper George Willis did get a hand to it but was unable to keep it out.

Knowing they needed to find something to keep their own play-off hopes alive, Alfreton were much improved in the second half.

And Kettering got a huge slice of luck when a long throw from Adam Lund was only cleared as far as Yusifu Ceesay who saw his effort come back off the inside of the post before being scrambled clear.

The Poppies did threaten at times and Kennedy fired over from a good position after Connor Barrett had skipped down the right and sent in a low cross.

Alfreton continued to have a go, however, and Ceesay shot over the bar after a free-kick had been knocked down.

Ian Culverhouse threw on Liam Daly for the last 10 minutes to make it a back six for the hosts and the experienced centre-half produced a number of towering headers to help keep the visitors at bay as their nine-match unbeaten run was ended.

The final whistle only signalled the start of a dramatic few minutes as news of that Gloucester goal filtered through.

Somehow, some way, Kettering have got themselves into the most incredible position going into a final day that won’t be for the faint of heart.

All roads now lead to Curzon Ashton…

Kettering: Jackson Smith; Barrett, C Johnson, Cooper, C Smith, Brown; Kennedy, Stohrer, Sharpe (sun Daly, 85 mins); Crawford (sub Sheriff, 66 mins), Stead (sub Deacon, 66 mins). Subs not used: Jack Smith, Davies.

Alfreton: Willis; Clackstone, Wiley, D Smith, Wilde (sub Preston, 79 mins); Lund (sub Butterfield, 81 mins), Branson, Hobson; Southwell, Salmon (sub Reeves, 53 mins), Ceesay. Subs not used: Smith-Eccles, B Johnson.

Referee: Kristian Silcock.

Goal: Stead pen (44 mins, 1-0).

Bookings: D Smith, Deacon, Butterfield (all fouls), Southwell (unsporting behaviour), Johnson (time-wasting).

Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Alex Brown - not for the first time, the left-back was outstanding. Positive going forward and strong in defence.

Attendance: 996.